Taking dietary supplements for weight loss, muscle building, and energy is associated with nearly three times increased risk for severe medical events in children and young adults, compared to vitamins, a study warns.
"The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued countless warnings about supplements sold for weight loss, muscle building or sport performance, sexual function, and energy, and we know these products are widely marketed to and used by young people," said Flora Or from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health in the US.
The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, looked at adverse event reports between January 2004 and April 2015 in the FDA Adverse Event Reporting System on the food and dietary supplements database. The researchers analysed the relative risk for severe medical events such as death, disability, and hospitalisation in individuals aged 0 and 25 years that were linked with the use of dietary supplements sold for weight loss, muscle building, or energy compared to vitamins.
They found that there were 977 single-supplement-related adverse event reports for the target age group. Of those, about 40 per cent involved severe medical outcomes, including death and hospitalisation. Supplements sold for weight loss, muscle building, and energy were associated with almost three times the risk for severe medical outcomes compared to vitamins.
Supplements sold for sexual function and colon cleanse were associated with about two times the risk for severe medical outcomes compared to vitamins. S Bryn Austin, professor at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, noted that reputable physicians do not recommend the use of the type of dietary supplements analysed in this study.
Many of these products have been found to be adulterated with prescription pharmaceuticals, banned substances, heavy metals, pesticides, and other dangerous chemicals. Other studies have linked weight-loss and muscle-building supplements with stroke, testicular cancer, liver damage, and even death.