Why dietary supplements and vitamins may be hazardous to your health

Residents around the world and in New York City recently celebrated the start of a new year. For many people making, and struggling to keep, resolutions to eat better, lose weight and exercise are an annual tradition. For many, discouraged by the slow progress they are making and disappointing results, the lure of dietary supplements that promise weight loss, and overall health and wellness in a bottle is too great to resist.

According to a 2013 article in Forbes Magazine, the vitamins, minerals and supplements industry, or VMS, boasted profits of roughly $32 billion in 2012 alone. From supplements that purport to improve sexual prowess and improve cognitive functioning to those that promise increased energy levels and weight loss, the VMS industry is highly profitable and also shockingly almost completely unregulated.

While medications that are classified as being over-the-counter and prescription must undergo a series of extensive testing, trials and the eventual approval of the Federal Drug Administration; the same stringent regulations don’t apply to dietary supplements. In fact, in the U.S. “dietary supplements are considered safe until proven otherwise.”

There is growing evidence of the very-real dangers posed by many unregulated dietary supplements. A recent study that was conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that, annually, more than 23,000 emergency room visits result from the use, misuse and overuse of these so-called safe supplements.

Adults ages 20 to 34 and children make up the largest groups of those individuals who seek medical care related to supplement use. Like any type of drug, an individual may have an adverse reaction or fail to follow the dosing recommendations for dietary supplements. Whatever the case may be, the issue is gaining national attention with a Frontline program detailing an investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and The New York Times into the industry scheduled to air later this month.

Source: WDAM-TV, “Study: Dietary supplements cause more than 23K ER visits,” CNN, Jan. 9, 2016


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