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Posted July 29, 2017

Increase in Calls to Poison Control Centers About Supplements

The number of calls to poison control centers in the U.S. about dietary supplement exposures increased by almost 50% between 2005 and 2012, according to a study published this week in the Journal of Medical Toxicology. Seventy percent of the exposures occurred among children younger than six years old and most (97%), were unintentional.

The most common reported symptoms associated with dietary supplement exposures were tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), nausea, irritability, drowsiness and dizziness. Although most exposures did not require medical treatment, 4.5% were reported as having serious medical outcomes and 1.7% required hospitalization. Thirty-four dietary supplement exposures resulted in death. Most serious medical outcomes occurred among individuals six years and older.

Supplements with the highest proportion of serious medical outcomes were energy products (including energy drinks) (10.8%), botanicals (10.8%), and cultural medicines (9.6%).

Energy drinks, which typically contain high amounts of caffeine, as well as ingredients such as taurine, guarana, ginseng and B vitamins, can increase blood pressure. As reported by ConsumerLab.com, a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that drinking a single energy drink may increase cardiovascular risk, and the drinks have been associated with cases of hemorrhagic stroke and acute hepatitis. Concerningly, the current study found children under the age of six accounted for almost 45% of energy product exposures.

Among botanicals, the herbal ingredient yohimbe was associated with the largest proportion of serious outcomes — the majority of which were among males, including critical care admissions and one death. Yohimbe is a common herbal ingredient in sexual enhancement supplements, as well as some weight loss supplements.

The study authors noted, "Consumers often believe that dietary supplements are held to the same safety and efficacy standards as over-the-counter medications; however, dietary supplements are not considered drugs, and are not required to undergo clinical trials or obtain approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to their sale in the US..." and concluded that FDA regulation of yohimbe and energy products is needed, as it was with ephedra.

To read the study abstract, use the link below.