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Dangers of Dietary Supplements

August 14, 2012 — The September issue of Consumer Reports is raising awareness about the hidden dangers of using dietary supplements, vitamins, minerals, and herbs. More than half of Americans use some type of dietary supplement, and the $27 billion industry continues to grow. Unfortunately, many people falsely assume that supplements are “all natural,” and therefore safe. In reality, some supplements are not natural or safe.

From 2007 until April 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received 6,300 reports of serious injuries caused by dietary supplements (which includes vitamins and herbs). Supplements were associated with 115 deaths and more than 2,100 hospitalizations.

Experts are recommending that people should only take a dietary supplement when their doctor recommends it, or if they have a true nutritional deficiency. Furthermore, they should never be a substitute for a healthy diet or lifestyle.

One big issue is that some “all natural” products are actually laced with synthetic drugs, or the same active ingredients that are found in prescription drugs. Because there are thousands of dietary supplement products, the FDA does not have the resources to test every product. The supplements most likely to be tainted are supplements used for weight-loss, bodybuilding, party pills, and sexual performance enhancement.

Another problem is that many supplements contain dangerously high doses of vitamins and minerals. Adverse reactions could occur when people take supplements containing more than 100% of the daily recommended amount.

Most people are aware that the supplements are not allowed to claim their product can treat, cure, or prevent a disease. However, many people assume that the product is safe for human consumption. In reality, supplement manufacturers are not required to conduct tests regarding the safety or efficacy of their product. Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Safety Act (DSHEA) of 1994, most supplements do not need to prove their product is safe, and many don’t need approval before they can sell their product in the U.S.

The only warning label the FDA requires is for iron. Although most supplement manufacturers abide by this requirement, other warnings are less common. For example, many products with St. John’s Wort lack warnings that the product can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills.

There is also growing evidence that some of the most popular supplements may actually be ineffective or harmful. Calcium supplements have been associated with an 86% increased risk of heart attack, but people who get enough calcium in their diet have a lowered risk of heart attack. Vitamin E has been linked to prostate cancer. Omega-3 pills may not be as effective as most people would like to believe.

According to the Council for Responsible Nutrition, consumers should only buy supplements from manufacturers with a strong reputation for producing high quality products. Furthermore, consumers (especially pregnant women and those taking other medications) should tell their doctor about all supplements they are taking — including vitamins, herbs, minerals, and other supplements. These products can interact with medications and have other unintended side effects.

Do I have a Dietary Supplement Lawsuit?

The Schmidt Firm, PLLC is currently accepting dietary supplement induced injury cases in all 50 states. If you or somebody you know has been injured by a dietary supplement, you should contact our lawyers immediately for a free case consultation. Please use the form below to contact our Dietary Supplement Litigation Group or call toll free 24 hours a day at (866) 920-0753.

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