JUN 11, 2019 07:16 AM PDT

Dietary Supplements are Severely Harmful for Young Adults

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

Young people are a target market for dietary supplements for weight loss, muscle building, energy, and more. A team of researchers aimed to determine the relationships between dietary supplements and adverse health impacts in children, adolescents, and young adults. The results of this observational study were published last week in the Journal of Adolescent Health

According to a press release from Harvard Chan School of Public Health, the study determined that compared with vitamins, dietary supplements for weight loss, muscle building, and energy are linked to nearly three times as many severe medical outcomes in young people. Supplements linked to sexual function and colon cleanse were linked to two times the risk for severe medical outcomes, compared to vitamins.

To determine these impacts, the research team conducted an observational study using reports of adverse events between January 2004 and April 2015 using the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Adverse Event Reporting System on food and dietary supplements database. “Severe medical events” were defined as death, disability, life-threatening events, hospitalization, emergency room visits, and required intervention to prevent permanent disability. 

Researchers discovered 977 single-supplement-related adverse events reported for the target age group of 0 to 25. Most of the adverse events occurred in young adults aged 18 to 25. Approximately 40% of those reports included severe medical outcomes such as hospitalization and life-threatening events—22 of which were deaths.

Lead-author Flora Or told the New York Times that what we are seeing is just the tip of the iceberg. She stated, “There is huge underreporting with these adverse events. Many physicians don’t report these things.”

The study’s authors suggest proactive enforcement to reduce access and consumption of dietary supplements among children, adolescents, and young adults. In the press statement regarding the study, co-author S. Bryn Austin—a professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences—stated: “How can we continue to let manufacturers of these products and the retailers who profit from them play Russia roulette with America’s youth? It is well past time for policymakers and retailers to take meaningful action to protect children and consumers of all ages.”

Sources: Harvard Chan School of Public HealthJournal of Adolescent Health, TIME, NY Times

About the Author
  • Enthusiastic science geek passionate about wildlife, wild places, and environmental issues. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, Tiffany hopes to educate and inspire the public to protect our planet.
You May Also Like
DEC 06, 2019
Health & Medicine
DEC 06, 2019
3D-printed cell traps catch cancer cells on the move
The early stages of metastasis, or the spread of cancer cells from the primary tumor site, are incredibly difficult to detect by analyzing blood samples. F...
DEC 06, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 06, 2019
Insulin Can Help Stop the Spread of Viruses by Triggering a Mosquito Immune Pathway
There are no treatments for dengue, West Nile and Zika viruses, but researchers may have found a way to reduce the chance that they will spread....
DEC 06, 2019
Microbiology
DEC 06, 2019
Probiotics Linked to Bloodstream Infections in ICU Patients
Probiotics, which are live microbes, are intended to improve human health, and they are sometimes given to intensive care unit patients of all ages....
DEC 06, 2019
Immunology
DEC 06, 2019
Rogue Inflammation Activates Depression During Pregnancy
Unresolved inflammation in a pregnant woman’s body can lead to serious depression during and after pregnancy. A new study investigates the physiologi...
DEC 06, 2019
Microbiology
DEC 06, 2019
Some Antacids Appear to Increase the Risk of Gastroenteritis
Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are drugs for heartburn relief; they can reduce stomach acid levels....
DEC 06, 2019
Microbiology
DEC 06, 2019
Potentially Deadly Superbugs Lurk in Many Makeup Bags
New research has found that many makeup products, including mascara, lip gloss, and beauty blenders are contaminated with bacteria....
Loading Comments...