Concussions can't be prevented, treated or cured with dietary supplements, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.
The agency issued a warning against these products in response to a number
of false claims, including promises to promote faster healing times after a
concussion or other traumatic brain injury (TBI).
No scientific evidence exists to support this claim or others, according to
a recent FDA news release. The agency advised consumers to avoid these
products, which are marketed on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook
and sold online and in various retail stores.
"As amazing as the marketing claims are, the science doesn't support
the use of any dietary supplements for the prevention of concussions or the
reduction of post-concussion symptoms that would enable one to return to
playing a sport faster," Daniel Fabricant, director of the FDA's division
of dietary supplement programmes, said in the news release.
Read: TBI – The facts
Supplements dangerous and untested
The FDA pointed out that dietary supplements marketed as cures or treatments
for concussions or other traumatic brain injuries are not only untested, but
also possibly dangerous.
These supplements typically contain the Indian spice turmeric and high doses
of omega-3 fatty acids.
The FDA recommends taking no more than 3 grams of
omega-3s daily due to increased risk of bleeding, high cholesterol and problems
controlling blood sugar levels.
Even if the ingredients in the products aren't harmful, the agency is
concerned that those who believe the claims might not take the proper
precautions to prevent a concussion or heal properly after such an injury.
What is concussion?
A concussion is a type of serious brain injury that can occur after a hit to
the head or rigorous shaking of the head or upper body. These head injuries
must be properly diagnosed and treated by a doctor, experts say.
Although the long-term effects of concussions have been the subject of
recent debate, research suggests that people who sustain a concussion and
resume playing sports or participating in strenuous activities too soon are at
greater risk for another concussion. Experts note that concussions have a
cumulative effect on the brain, which can cause brain swelling, permanent brain
damage or even death.
Jason Humbert, a senior regulatory manager with the FDA's Office of
Regulatory Affairs, said the agency was first notified about dietary
supplements being sold as cures or treatments for concussions by the US
Department of Defence.
"We first learned from the military about a product marketed to
treat TBI – obviously a concern with wounded veterans," Humbert said.
"We were taken aback that anyone would make a claim that a supplement
could treat TBI, a hot-button issue. That sparked our surveillance."
Two companies identified
The FDA has so far identified two companies that sell more than one product
promising to prevent and treat concussions or other types of traumatic brain
One company claimed its product has "the dynamic ability to minimize
long-term effects and decrease recovery time", according to the FDA. A National
Football League player also vouched for the product's "proven
results" in his own recovery from a concussion. Meanwhile, an unidentified
"licensed trainer" reportedly uses the product in his
Read: Concussion guidelines
The second company made similar claims for four products it is selling.
The FDA sent letters of warning to both companies in 2012, which stated that
the supplements did not have adequate directions for their use and were
generally not recognised as safe and effective for treating concussions or
other brain injuries.
The FDA notified the companies that legal action, such as
seizure or injunction, could result if violations were not corrected. Since
then, both companies have changed the labelling on their products and updated
their websites, according to the news release.
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