BETHESDA, Md.Alliance for Natural Health International (ANH) released hard data in graphical format, showing that food supplements are the safest substances to which humans are constantly exposed, while being the target of increasingly restrictive European legislation. In contrast, being admitted to a U.K. hospital or taking prescription drugs exposes a person to some of the greatest preventable risks in society, according to ANH.
Preventable medical injuries in U.K. hospitals expose people to around the same risk of death as being deployed on military service to Afghanistanboth of which are around 300,000-times greater than the risk of death from taking natural health products, according to ANH.
ANH's bar charts include the numerical relative risks of death to the individual for those activities, which range from taking herbal medicines and dietary supplements, via gunshot wounds and paracetamol (acetaminophen) poisoning, to preventable medical injuries in hospitals, adverse pharmaceutical drug reactions, smoking and military service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Risk of death from food supplements has been assigned a value of 1 to allow calculation of the relative risk from other sources.
The data only include risk of death from acute causes, and not from chronic, long-term exposure to any of the substances or activities ANH investigated. Also, the charts dont include data on adverse events that do not lead to death. Where possible, all data are taken from U.K. government and official EU sources.
The data were collated and presented by Ron Law, an independent New Zealand-based risk management consultant.
Key points from the relative risks data:
- On evaluation of the most widespread sources of preventable risk, smoking still appears the single riskiest activity for a UK citizen: by comparison, humans are 797,940-times more likely to die from smoking than from taking a food supplement.
- A person resident in the U.K. is293,006-times more likely to die from preventable medical injuries than from taking a food supplement. For herbal medicines, its 36,625 times.
- A visit to a U.K. hospital poses a similar risk of death to active military service in Iraq or Afghanistan.
- The risk of death from pharmaceutical drugs in the U.K. is 62,000-times that of taking food supplements.
- Pharmaceutical drugs pose nearly double the risk of death than motorcycle accidents on U.K. roads.
- Herbal medicines and food supplements can both be regarded as "supersafe," posing no significant risk of death; the risk of death is less than 1 in 10 million people exposed.
- U.K. residents are about as likely to be hit by lightning or to be killed on the London Underground than to die from taking herbal remedies or dietary supplements