Dietary Supplements Are Harmful to Young Adults, New Harvard Research Says

Diet pills may be harmful
(Photo courtesy artisteer / Getty Images.) Many popular and easily accessible dietary supplements have been doctored with pesticides, heavy metals, prescription pharmaceuticals and even banned chemicals, according to S. Bryn Austin, a professor in Harvard University's Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Children and young adults are three times more likely to experience a severe medical event while consuming dietary supplements versus consuming vitamins, according to a recently published Harvard University-led study.

The June 5 study, published in The Journal of Adolescent Health, used retrospective observational methods to assess severe medical events reported via the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Adverse Event Reporting System between January 2004 and April 2015. Researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health counted 977 single-supplement-related adverse event reports for those age 0 to age 25.

Approximately 40 percent of the 977 episodes were severe medical outcomes, including death and hospitalization.

The researchers found that supplements marketed for energy-boosting, muscle-building or weight-loss properties carried almost three times the risk for severe medical outcomes versus traditional vitamins. Additionally, supplements sold for sexual function were associated with approximately two times the risk.

Reputable medical doctors never recommend these types of supplements, senior study author S. Bryn Austin, a professor in Harvard's Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, told The Harvard Gazette. Many of them have been doctored with pesticides, heavy metals, prescription pharmaceuticals and even banned chemicals.

“How can we continue to let the manufacturers of these products and the retailers who profit from them play Russian roulette with America’s youth?” Austin told the Gazette. “It is well past time for policymakers and retailers to take meaningful action to protect children and consumers of all ages.”

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