The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) has announced as part of the initial results from its survey of healthcare professionals that, contrary to industry belief, the sector is in fact both using and recommending dietary supplements.
"It reconfirms what we know: that supplements are very mainstream in the US," CRN vice president of communications Judy Blatman told NutraIngredients-USA.
Industry repeatedly claims there is a perceived divide between its products and so-called mainstream medicine - but Blatman says this may not even be as prevalent as once thought and that the key now is to get healthcare professionals to talk more to their patients about the potential benefits of these products.
"We need to make sure that we as an industry are communicating with healthcare professionals and that they are communicating with their patients and getting accurate information," said Blatman.
As part of the commissioned survey, the trade association set out to determine the personal attitudes towards dietary supplements of those people working in healthcare and how this impacts whether or not they recommend supplements to their patients.
According to CRN, the study demonstrates that an almost equal number of physicians and nurses personally use dietary supplements regularly, occasionally or seasonally. The study results revealed 72 percent of physicians and 89 percent of nurses take dietary supplements, which is a higher percentage than the 68 percent of adults who reported they take them.
"They may question them more, but at the end of the day they are still taking them," Blatman said of healthcare professionals.
Perhaps even more surprising is that not only did the survey reveal that 72 percent of physicians use supplements and 85 percent recommend them to their patients, but that of the 28 percent of physicians who do not use supplements, 62 percent still recommend them.
Blatman indicated this could be because the healthcare professionals are recommending condition-specific supplements for conditions that they themselves would not need to take the products for.
Among projects CRN is looking into is participating in continuing education for healthcare professionals, as the survey results indicate this is a good way to reach them.
"I think perhaps there's some disconnect that they don't understand the value of supplements," said Blatman.
In addition, Blatman suggested CRN and other industry groups can engage in discussions or partnerships with academic institutions on research partnerships, with the goal of reaching further into the healthcare profession.
Ipsos-Public Affairs conducted an online survey for CRN of 1,177 healthcare professionals (300 primary care physicians, 301 obstetricians/gynecologists, 299 other physician specialists and 277 registered nurses and nurse practitioners) in October.
The research forms part of CRN's three-year public relations campaign, "Life…supplemented", which is mainly aimed at consumers. CRN wants to encourage a perception that taking dietary supplements is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle, in much the same way as it is widely accepted that exercise and a well-balanced diet are pillars of such a lifestyle.
The entire project is drawing on the support of over 25 dietary supplement companies.