Download the UK relative risks bubble chart as a PDF / data sources as a PDF

Download the UK relative risks bar chart as a PDF / data sources as a PDF

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A picture tells a thousand words, so they say. Today, ANH-Intl releases hard data in graphical format, from official sources, showing that food supplements are the safest substances to which we are commonly exposed – while being the target of increasingly restrictive European legislation aimed at ‘protecting consumers’.  In contrast, being admitted to a UK hospital or taking prescription drugs exposes a person to one of the greatest preventable risks in society.

In fact, preventable medical injuries in UK hospitals expose you to around the same risk of death as being deployed on military service to Afghanistan – both of which are around 300,000 times greater than the risk of death from taking natural health products.

Putting risks in perspective

Risk: it’s a tricky issue, and nowhere more so than in the debate around natural versus mainstream healthcare. Today, however, we’re not interested in the details and history of the debate – instead, we want to push things forward.

We’re delighted to be able to share with you graphical comparisons of the risks of death in the UK from many risky and not-so-risky activities, both as an easy-to-understand bubble chart and as a more traditional bar chart. The relative sizes of the bubbles show how likely the individual is to die from each activity: a bigger bubble means a proportionately larger risk of death. In the next few days, we’ll have more data for you, this time looking at the situation in the entire European Union (EU).

UK relative risks of death bubble chart (click to download as a pdf)

UK relative risks of death bar chart (click to download as a pdf)

Our 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. 

To clarify, the data only include risk of death from acute causes, and not from chronic, long-term exposure to any of the substances or activities we investigated. Also, the charts don’t include any data on adverse events that do not lead to death, i.e. sublethal acute effects. Where possible, all data are taken from UK government and official EU sources.

The data were collated and presented by Ron Law, an independent New Zealand-based risk management consultant.

Eight 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, you’re 797,940 times more likely to die from smoking than from taking a food supplement!
  • A person resident in the UK is an incredible 293,006 times more likely to die from preventable medical injuries than from taking a food supplement. For herbal medicines, it’s a still-enormous 36,625 times!
  • A spell in a UK hospital poses a similar risk of death to active military service in Iraq or Afghanistan!
  • The risk of death from pharmaceutical drugs in the UK is 62,000 times that of taking food supplements
  • Pharmaceutical drugs pose nearly double the risk of death than motorcycle accidents on UK roads
  • The UK bar chart reveals that 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 to food supplements!
  • By contrast, preventable medical injuries in UK hospitals are in the ‘Dangerous’ category, with a risk of death greater than 1 in 1,000 – along with smoking and military service in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • UK 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

Call to action

  • Please spread this information far and wide! Share the charts and data sources on Facebook, Twitter and other social media, and email them to all your contacts. The more people know the truth, the more difficult it will be for detractors of natural medicine to claim that it is a danger to the public and in need of further regulation or banning
  • Want to avoid running a risk of death similar to that of a soldier serving in the Middle East? Then take responsibility for your own health, keep yourself healthy and avoid the need to go to hospital! Some pointers on healthy eating and lifestyles are given in our Food4Health campaign.