Dietary supplements, including energy drinks which have become a fad today, are not regulated and should not be consumed as these may cause severe health issues, especially in children, US-based researchers have advised.
The US Poison Control Centers receive a call every 24 minutes, on average, regarding dietary supplement exposures, according to researchers from the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center, both at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio. The dietary supplements with the highest proportion of serious medical outcomes were energy products, and botanical and cultural medicines.
Within the botanical category, “yohimbe” accounted for the largest proportion of serious medical outcomes (28.2 per cent). “Exposures to ‘yohimbe’ and energy products can be dangerous, suggesting the need for child-resistant packaging, caregiver education and FDA regulation of these substances,” said Henry Spiller, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s. ‘Yohimbe’ is taken for sexual problems, athletic performance and weight loss, among others.
Many consumers believe dietary supplements are held to the same safety and efficacy standards as over-the-counter medications. “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 labelled as intended for therapeutic use,” noted Gary Smith, senior study author and director of the Center of Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s.
The study, published in the Journal of Medical Toxicology, found the rate of calls regarding dietary supplement exposures increased (46.1 per cent) during 2000-2002, decreased (8.8 per cent) during 2002-2005 and increased again (49.3 per cent) from 2005-2012. Seventy percent of dietary supplement exposure calls occurred among children younger than six-year-old and the majority of these were unintentional.
Most exposures (97.3 per cent) occurred at home, and in more than 97 percent of the cases, the child swallowed the substance. Serious medical outcomes accounted for 4.5 percent of exposures and the most serious outcomes (95 per cent) occurred among children six years and older.
Nearly 30 per cent of ‘yohimbe’ exposure calls resulted in moderate or major effects. ‘Yohimbe’ can cause heart beat rhythm changes, kidney failure, seizures, heart attack and death. Energy products, including drinks, advertised to increase energy and mental performance, can cause bad clinical effects as well, the researchers noted.
Data for this study were obtained from the National Poison Data System, which is maintained by the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC).