Dietary supplements, including multivitamins and calcium, are increasing the risk of choking problems among people aged 65 and above, according to a government study. The study stated the size of the pill is a major cause for it.

The research was published in the internal medical journal of the American College of Physicians called Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday and tried to find an association between dietary supplements and swallowing problems.

Through the study, the authors found that adults aged 65 and above are at greater risk of choking dietary pills due to the large size of it. Multivitamins and calcium supplements have increased risk of choking, the study stated.

To facilitate the swallowing of generic drug capsules and tables, the US. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided voluntary guidelines. But no such recommendations exist for dietary supplements, the researchers noted.

“Older adults should be mindful of possible choking or other swallowing problems from taking supplements. They should avoid taking several pills at once, avoid extra-large pills or capsules, and swallow supplements with plenty of water or other fluid,” Lindsay Haake, a spokesperson for FDA, told Reuters.

For the study, the research team looked into the various problems of swallowing dietary pills filed between 2006 and 2015. During the analysis, they found that 3,932 cases of swallowing problems were reported and 64 percent of them mentioned the patient’s age. The research team also found that 76.8 percent of the patients were aged 65 and above.

While 86 percent of the swallowing problems were related to choking, 14.3 percent had serious effects, including three deaths that were caused due to aspiration or supplement-induced airway obstruction, the study stated.

The research also stated that 72.9 percent of swallowing problems involved multivitamins and 17.3 percent included calcium supplements. They found that the dietary supplements that caused choking had a height of 7.8mm, a width of 9.8mm and length of 19.3 mm.

“Multivitamins are used by up to 35% and calcium supplements by up to 24% of older adults, who have higher rates (of swallowing issues) than younger persons,” the research team, comprising of members from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA, noted.

Meanwhile, an FDA spokesperson said, “Tell your physician you are having difficulty swallowing pills and ask him/her or your pharmacist for other options or if you can cut the supplement in half. The FDA advises all consumers to talk to their doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional before deciding to purchase or use a dietary supplement.”

Dietary Pills
Large size dietary pills increase the risk of choking in elderly, states a study. Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay