An increasing number of children are being poisoned from supplements their parents or other adults take.
The supplements that posed the greatest dangers for children because of their toxicity were ephedra (also known as ma huang), which is used for weight loss; and yohimbe, used in male-enhancement products.
Researchers with the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, found a startling jump in dietary supplements overdoses among children in the U.S.:
- Accidental exposure to dietary supplements rose almost 50 percent from 2005 through 2012.
- Of those exposures, 70 percent involved young children.
- 97 percent of the time, children took the supplements at home.
Health concerns, including death
“The biggest increase (in accidental overdoses) was in children under 6,” Henry Spiller, the study author and director of the Central Ohio Poison Center, told HealthDay. “It got our attention.”
The 13-year study, published in the “Journal of Medical Toxicology” this week, found a sharp increase (46 percent) in calls to U.S. poison control centers from 2000 to 2002. The call rate declined from 2002 to 2005, which Spiller attributed to an FDA ban on ephedra in 2004. The dietary supplement has been linked with heart events and death.
However, there’s no ban on yohimbe, a tree bark extract, and almost 30 percent of yohimbe exposure calls resulted in moderate or major harm. The supplement, used to increase blood flow to the penis or vagina, can cause irregular heart rhythms, kidney failure, heart attack or death, according to WebMD.com.
FDA regulation needed
Kids commonly find the supplements that parents or other adults take for energy and vitality on the kitchen counter, researchers say. Parents often don’t track how many pills are in the bottle, making it difficult to tell poison control officials how many pills were taken, Spiller said.
Researchers’ findings indicate a need for caregiver education, child-resistant packaging and FDA regulation of yohimbe and other energy products.