Do health professionals use dietary supplements themselves? Do they recommend dietary supplements to their patients? A survey published in the Nutrition Journal shows that the answer is a big 'yes' to both.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) show that most American diet fall short in vitamins A, C, D, and E and minerals such as calcium, zinc, magnesium and iron.
AdvertisementThe American Dietetic Association, now known as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recommend improvement in overall dietary habits but recognize that dietary supplements can help consumers achieve nutritional goals. For example, women of childbearing age may require folic acid supplements, or, people over the age of 50 may require vitamin B12 supplementation. Again, some people may require vitamin D to build and maintain optimum bone mass and so on.
It has also been reported that usage is higher among:
• older adults than among younger ones
• women than men
• more educated than less educated
Although consumer usage of dietary supplements is well documented, not much data is available regarding usage among health professionals and whether they recommend dietary supplements to patients.
To examine the extent of usage and recommendations of dietary supplements by the dieticians, Annette Dickinson and colleagues conducted an online survey of 300 registered dietitians in America who practiced in a clinic or have private practice and saw at least one patient per week at their practice site. They were also asked the reason for using and recommending dietary supplements.
Here's what the surveyors found:
• 96 percent of the dietitians surveyed who used dietary supplements were women and 74 percent of them were regular users.
• 72 percent of them dietitians surveyed had at least one other member of the household who used dietary supplements.
• The top three reasons for taking dietary supplements were:
1. bone health (58 percent),
2. overall health and wellness benefits (53 percent), and
3. to fill nutrient gaps in the diet (42 percent).
• 84 percent of the respondents used multivitamin either regularly or occasionally; next was calcium with 63 percent. Vitamins C and D were used as dietary supplements by 43 percent and 47 percent of respondents respectively.
• 97 percent of the dietitians surveyed recommended dietary supplements to clients.
• The top reasons for recommending dietary supplements were:
1. bone health (70 percent),
2. filling nutrition gaps (67 percent),
3. overall health and wellness benefits (49 percent),
4. lowering cholesterol (46 percent),
5. heart health (46 percent),
6. dietary pattern (vegetarian / vegan) (43 percent)
• 27 percent of the dietitians surveyed recommended dietary supplements for diabetes or glucose control and 19 percent recommended it for eating disorders. Interestingly, dietitians themselves didn't use dietary supplements for these conditions.
• Special diets, pregnancy and sports nutrition were also reasons for recommending dietary supplements to clients but were not the reasons for personal use.
• 87 percent of the registered dietitians surveyed said their clients are 'generally comfortable telling me about their dietary supplement usage'. But, only 23 percent of the respondents believe that their clients 'have a good understanding of the appropriate daily intake for dietary supplements'.
• 95 percent of respondents were interested in continuing education about dietary supplements on a variety of topics, especially, interactions of drugs and dietary supplements, basics about dietary supplements, how to counsel clients about dietary supplements and even weight management.
The authors concluded that dietitians use dietary supplements themselves and also recommend dietary supplements to their patients, especially for the reasons of 'bone health, overall health and wellness and filling nutrient gaps in the diet'.
Source: Dickinson, A. et al. Dietitians use and recommend dietary supplements: report of a survey. Nutrition Journal 2012, 11:14. [http://www.nutritionj.com/content/pdf/1475-2891-11-14.pdf]
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