Way Too Many Kids Are Being Poisoned By Dietary Supplements

Photographed by: Megan Madden.
Dietary supplements may seem like an easy way to get the vitamins your body might need, but some of them may not be as safe as they seem.
According to a study published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology on Monday, there was a nearly 50% increase in calls to poison control centers that were related to dietary supplements between 2005 and 2012. Overall, the research showed that from 2000 to 2012, people called poison control centers every 24 minutes on average due to dietary supplement exposures.
What's more, 70% of such exposures occurred in children younger than six years old.
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The researchers believe that the high increase could be due to miscellaneous substances in the supplements that consumers may not be aware of.
"Many consumers believe dietary supplements are held to the same safety and efficacy standards as over-the-counter medications," Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, senior author of the study, told Medical Xpress. "However, dietary supplements are not considered drugs, thus they are not required to undergo clinical trials or obtain approval from the FDA prior to sale, unless the product is labeled as intended for therapeutic use."
The researchers noted that a majority of the supplements were energy products, including ma huang, a botanical stimulant.
Though most exposures did not lead to serious medical outcomes, the researchers stressed that they could still be dangerous, and noted the need for increased regulation and control.
"Lack of federal oversight has led to inconsistencies in the quality of dietary supplements, product mislabeling and contamination with other substances," Henry Spiller, MS, D.ABAT, a co-author of the study, told Medical Xpress. "Although the majority of these exposure calls did not result in serious medical outcomes, exposures to yohimbe and energy products can be dangerous, suggesting the need for child-resistant packaging, caregiver education, and FDA regulation of these substances."
While we may think of supplements as relatively harmless, this study points to the fact that it's possible to encounter some that interfere with your body in ways you might not expect — in any case, it's best to keep your doctor in the loop of what you're taking or planning on taking.
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