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Dr. Ronald Hoffman

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Are Supplements Safe? Dr. Ronald Hoffman Challenges Media Reaction to Supplement Study

New York, NY, October 27, 2015 --( In his latest article, “Pushing Back on Supplement Alarmists,” renowned Integrative Physician Dr. Ronald Hoffman takes on a new study that has prompted a frontal assault on supplements.

New England Journal of Medicine released a statistical analysis of emergency room visits between 2004 and 2013. The study reported that just over 23,000 ER visits per year were linked to dietary supplements—prompting media outlets to run alarmist headlines about supplement safety and regulation.

“In point of fact, supplements have been proven time and time again to be incredibly safe,” said Dr. Hoffman. “And the supplement industry is fully regulated.”

Hoffman details the following facts:

• Of the people who showed up at emergency rooms, only a small fraction required hospitalization--less than 10%. Of those, none died.
• By contrast, the frequency of emergency room visits and hospitalizations resulting from routine use of over-the-counter and prescription medications is 30-50 times higher! And, needless to say, there were many deaths.
• 21% of the ER visits involved unsupervised children under 4; kids aren't supposed to eat shoe polish or scented candles either, but they do anyway, resulting in thousands of emergency room visits annually.
• Among adults over 65, more than 1/3 of the hospital visits were due to choking on supplements (not adverse reactions to the supplement ingredients)
• Especially among younger people, use of weight loss or energy supplements accounted for 72% of supplement-related adverse events, including palpitations, tachycardia, or chest pain.
• Notwithstanding all the hubbub about Lamar Odom's misadventure in which "herbal Viagra" was implicated, sexual supplements accounting for only 3.4% of hospital visits.

Hoffman writes that it's not clear how many of the adverse reactions recorded in the study occurred in consumers taking regular supplements—not edgy weight loss, energy, or sexual enhancement supplements—as directed. But the percentage of individuals suffering adverse consequences from taking recommended doses of supplements manufactured by responsible, mainstream companies is likely to have been negligible.

And Hoffman offers these tips for safe supplement usage:

• Supplements should only be taken as directed. Never exceed the recommended dosage unless specifically advised to do so by a nutritionally-savvy health professional.
• In general, energy supplements, sexual enhancers, and those ubiquitous sports panaceas are a bad bet. They may contain hidden stimulants, illicit ingredients, or even unapproved prescription drugs.
• Avoid supplements whose labels are written in foreign languages or do not properly disclose their ingredients according to FDA regulations.
• Always seek out natural products manufactured by large, reputable companies that adhere to GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) regulations.
• If you're older, or have swallowing problems, stick to smaller capsules and avoid large tablets, or invest in a pill-crusher. Alternatively, seek out powder or liquid versions of the supplements you use. Always take supplements with food, not on an empty stomach, unless specifically directed.
• Keep supplements away from inquisitive young children. Since calcium and iron supplements account for an unusually high percentage of childhood poisoning incidents, it might be a good idea for manufacturers to consider packaging them in child-proof containers.
• Anyone undertaking a serious supplement program, particularly those with serious health problems or those taking prescription drugs, should do so under the supervision of a knowledgeable health practitioner.

Dr. Ronald Hoffman is a pioneering complementary medicine practitioner, Director of the Hoffman Center for Integrative Medicine based in New York City, and host of the popular and long running syndicated weekly radio program and podcast “Intelligent Medicine.” Read the full article at the Intelligent Medicine website.
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