Are Dietary Supplements Safe?
For years, there has been mounting evidence that vitamins, minerals, essential oils, herbs, and dietary supplements may not be as safe as originally believed. Since 1983, the American Association of Poison Control Centers has received over 1.6 million reports of adverse reactions from dietary supplements, including 251,799 reactions that required hospitalization and 257 deaths.
The year 2005 alone had the following findings:
- Ordinary vitamins accounted for nearly half of all the 62,446 reports they received, including 1 death.
- Minerals were linked to 32,098 reports, and included 13 deaths.
- Herbs and other specialty products accounted for 23,769 reports with 13 deaths.
- Essential oils were associated with 7,049 reactions, but no deaths.
- The poison center received 2,001 reports of reactions to melatonin, including 535 hospitalizations and 4 deaths.
- Homeopathic products were linked to 7,049 reactions, including 564 hospitalizations and 2 deaths.
- St. John’s Wort received 203 reports, including 79 hospitalizations and 1 death.
- Glucosamine was linked to 813 reports, including 108 hospitalizations and 1 death.
- Echinacea was linked to 483 reactions, including 55 hospitalizations.
- Injuries involving children under 6 accounted for nearly 75% of all reports involving dietary supplements.
- 48,604 children suffered reactions to vitamins alone.
Drugs marketed in the U.S. are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but there is no such agency or process for monitoring supplements. But the good news is that Congress recently passed a law requiring that the manufacturers of dietary supplements and over-the-counter drugs notify the FDA whenever an adverse reaction or death is reported.
Source: "Diet Supplements and Safety: Some Disquieting Data." By Dan Hurley. The New York Times. January 16, 2007.