As people struggle to lose weight and stay in shape, more and more are turning to a wide range of herbal medicines and dietary supplements. While many of the so-called medications promise immense results, so far their actual performance has largely proven to be inconclusive, at best, and can cause injuries and hospitalizations in more severe cases.
Dietary supplements sent over 23,000 people to the hospital in 2013. In some cases, these supplements can actually result in death. For example, in an 18 year old high school student and a 24 year old recent college graduate died from a powdered caffeine supplement.
23,005 people ended up in the emergency room last year because of dietary supplements. Nearly 10 percent of those people ended up hospitalized outright, with many patients reporting heart problems.
Several other complications have been linked to dietary supplements, including liver disease. One study conducted from 2004 to 2013 saw liver injuries induced by herbal medications rise from 7 percent to 20 percent of the total over the span of the study. The study found that middle-aged women were the most likely to be injured.
While the Food & Drug administration does regulate the dietary supplements market, the set of regulations is far different from that of prescription drugs, and is far more lax. Mostly, the FDA looks to ensure that supplements are not adulterated.
The extensive testing and trials required for conventional drugs is not required with supplements. As a result, dietary supplements are in some ways an unregulated market.
Many dietary supplements try to pass themselves off as being safe by using the now ubiquitous but still highly respected label of “natural.”
Unfortunately, many of the deadliest substances known to man are “natural”. A few tablespoons of the naturally occurring botulinum toxin would be enough to kill the entire world’s population.
Interestingly, dietary supplements are proving particularly good at taking down those supposed “young invincibles”. More than one quarter of all those hospitalized fell between the age of 20 and 34, which is generally considered to be the healthiest age range.
A number of children were also hospitalized last year. It should also be noted that prescription drugs send far more people to the hospital each year, though many of these hospitalizations are the result of intentional drug abuse.
Prescribed drugs cause about 1.9 million hospitalizations each year, while 840,000 people already in the hospital see their condition worsen after taking prescription drugs.
It’s estimated that 128,000 people die from prescription drugs each year, though many of these deaths may have been caused by intentional overdose. Such severe reactions are believed to occur in only “1.5” cases.
The dietary supplement market is largely unregulated, and is a massive $30 billion dollar industry. Given that tests and trials are generally not conducted to measure the effectiveness of the dietary supplements market, it’s hard to know which supplements, if any, are effective.