Navigating the grocery store can be a challenge. From finding the healthiest cereal among the hundreds that line the shelves, to trying to identify a rutabaga in the produce section, it’s a weekly trial. It’s no wonder that so many Americans turn to weight loss pills and other dietary supplements to bolster their nutritional health. According to a new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this reliance on supplements is responsible for tens of thousands of hospital emergency room visits each year.
In addition to posing a hazard to children’s health in the form of choking, complications from these supplements can include heart problems, such as irregular or rapid heartbeat and chest pains. The new study examined data from 63 emergency rooms between 2004 and 2013 and it is the first national estimate of complications that result from using dietary supplements. Dr. Andrew Geller of the CDC and his colleagues found that about 23,000 emergency room visits occur each year due to these supplements. Among those cases, 2,154 patients are hospitalized for further evaluation and treatment.
Geller attributes the complications arising from dietary supplements to the fact that the Food and Drug Administration does not have to confirm the safety and efficacy of these products before they are sold. “We don’t have information about what’s contained in these products,” Geller told NPR. “It can be hard for consumers, clinicians, and public health agencies to determine which, if any, of the specific active ingredients caused the observed effects.” These findings highlight the need for tighter regulation and further research on the safety of dietary supplements.
Although some dietary supplements can be beneficial to health, it is difficult to determine which are truly safe without adequate regulation. If you have a deficiency, consult your doctor about dietary supplements. However, if you’re simply looking to boost your intake of a certain vitamin, try making modifications to your diet. For example, increase your intake of green leafy vegetables if you are low on iron. Add some kale to your morning smoothie, eat a salad for lunch, and add a side of sautéed spinach to your dinner. Simple lifestyle changes like these can both save you money, and according to this new study, potentially a trip to the emergency room.
The accompanying slideshow is provided by fellow Daily Meal special contributor Emily Jacobs.