Dietary Supplements Send 23K to Hospital Per YearOctober 16, 2015 — Dietary supplements send 23,000 people to the emergency department every year, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the first study of its kind, researchers looked at nationally-representative surveillance data from 63 emergency departments from 2004-2013 and based their conclusions on 3,667 cases.

Weight-loss or energy-boosting supplements caused 72% of events involving heart palpitations, chest pain, or fast heart rate. Of an estimated 23,000 emergency department visits, over 2,100 were serious enough to need hospitalization.

About 28% of cases involved young adults between 20 and 34 years old. After excluding children who accidentally ate a supplement, 66% of visits involved herbal or complementary nutritional products. Micronutrient pills (vitamins and minerals) led to 30% of visits, mostly involving allergic reactions or choking.

About half of adults in the United States report consuming supplements and more than 55,000 products are on the market. Despite widespread use, supplements undergo little scrutiny by the FDA.

Prescription drugs must establish safety before they are allowed on the market, but supplements typically do not go through pre-market approval and they are only recalled after being proven unsafe.

Laboratory testing also routinely finds unlabeled ingredients in supplements. In February, lab tests of store-brand supplements at GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart found that 19 out of 24 herbal products contained none of the ingredients on the label. Additionally, five products contained allergens like wheat or beans.

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