The Dangers of Taking Dietary Supplements

Learn about the potential risks associated with taking dietary supplements. Find out what symptoms could occur as a result of taking too many vitamins or minerals.

The Dangers of Taking Dietary Supplements

Taking dietary supplements can be beneficial for your health, but it is important to be aware of the potential risks. Skin rashes, shortness of breath, diarrhea, severe joint or muscle pain, difficulty speaking and blood in the urine are all possible adverse events that can result from taking supplements. These symptoms can range from mild to fatal. Manufacturers often add vitamins, minerals and other supplement ingredients to the foods you eat, such as breakfast cereals and beverages.

As a result, you may be consuming more of these ingredients than you think, and more may not be better. Taking more than you need costs more and may also increase the risk of side effects. For example, too much vitamin A can cause headaches and liver damage, reduce bone strength, and cause birth defects. Excess iron causes nausea and vomiting and can damage the liver and other organs. Weight-loss products accounted for a quarter of all emergency department visits with a single product and disproportionately affected women, while men were more likely to suffer adverse effects from products advertised for sexual enhancement and bodybuilding. Energy-boosting products accounted for another 10% of these visits.

In fact, there are many ways in which an essential nutrient supplement can produce an adverse effect. You're more likely to have side effects from dietary supplements if you take them in high doses or instead of prescription drugs, or if you take many different supplements. A 10-year study analyzed surveillance data from 63 hospital emergency departments to estimate the annual number of emergency department visits associated with the adverse effects of dietary supplements. Ask a pharmacist, doctor, or nurse to review everything you take to ensure that supplements don't cause harmful effects, either alone or in combination with commonly prescribed or over-the-counter medications. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), St.

John's Wort may also reduce the effectiveness of other medications, such as birth control pills, chemotherapy drugs against HIV or AIDS, and medications to prevent organ rejection after a transplant. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not determine if dietary supplements are effective before they are marketed. In addition, dietary supplement packages are not required to include possible side effects, nor are there any rules on the maximum size of pills (an obvious risk for older people). A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that the adverse effects of supplements were responsible for an average of about 23,000 emergency department (ED) visits per year. For example, a systematic review that analyzes the possible effects of nutritional supplements on cardiovascular health suggests that few supplements help prevent heart disease; only omega-3 fatty acids and folic acid were effective. Used correctly, some supplements can improve your health, but others may be ineffective or even harmful. It is important to be aware of the potential risks associated with taking dietary supplements.

Make sure to consult with a pharmacist, doctor or nurse before taking any supplement to ensure that it won't cause any harmful effects or interact with any medications you may be taking.