Researchers have found that consumption of dietary supplements for weight loss, muscle building and energy leads to death, disability and hospitalisation in kids and young adults, compared to vitamins.
The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found that these types of supplements were linked to nearly three times as many severe medical outcomes in young people.
"The 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. So what are the consequences for their health? That's the question we wanted to answer," said lead author Flora Or from Harvard University.
For the study, the researchers looked at adverse event reports between January 2004 and April 2015 in the US and analysed the relative risk for severe medical events such as death, disability and hospitalisation in individuals aged zero 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, approximately 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, said the study.
"Many of these products have been found to be adulterated with prescription pharmaceuticals, banned substances, heavy metals, pesticides and other dangerous chemicals" said S. Bryn Austin, Professor at Harvard University.