Dietary supplements are bad for kids

In a review of data filed in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration "Adverse Event Reporting System" between January 2004 and April 2015, researchers found that the use of supplements in people 25 or younger increased the risk of what they categorized as "severe medical events", or things like death, disability and hospitalization. On labels, it sometimes referred to as Vinca minor extract, lesser periwinkle extract or common periwinkle extract - but there's nothing natural about it.

This warning surrounds dietary supplements containing Vinpocetine. Vinpocetine, a synthetically produced compound sold by itself or combined with other ingredients, is usually marketed for increased cognitive performance, enhanced energy and rapid reduction of body fat.

"We're advising pregnant women and women who could become pregnant not to take vinpocetine", FDA Deputy Commissioner Dr. Amy Abernethy said in an agency news release.

In some countries, vinpocetine is considered a prescription drug that's used for conditions affecting the brain and blood flow; but in the US, vinpocetine isn't approved to treat any conditions. Because the study relied on cases reported to the FDA, it's likely that many more cases went unreported because the connection to dietary supplements wasn't made.

In some countries, vinpocetine is treated like a prescription drug but not here in the United States where dietary supplements are not strictly regulated by the FDA. Earlier this year, the FDA announced new efforts to strengthen the regulation of dietary supplements, including the introduction of a new tool, the Dietary Supplement Ingredient Advisory List, to more quickly alert the public of unlawful ingredients. However, the agency requested comments on the issue and has not reached a definitive conclusion on whether vinpocetine is legal for sale as a dietary supplement.

The FDA has asked firms marketing supplements containing vinpocetine to evaluate their product labeling to ensure that it provides safety warnings against use by pregnant women and women who could become pregnant.