Consumers trust supplements less, but consume the same

By Clarisse Douaud

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Supplements

An Ipsos-Public Affairs survey indicates consumer confidence in
dietary supplements is declining, but - at 65 percent of all adults
- the number of Americans taking dietary supplements remains high.

In August, the pollster conducted two surveys funded by the Council for Responsible Nutrition, with 1,002 respondents in a telephone survey and 2,022 participants in an online survey.

The findings could prop up calls for more self-regulation within the supplement industry - as consumers appear to be interested in supplements even though they retain some scepticism and may have been influenced by negative publicity.

The industry's diligent members are eager to avoid being painted with the same brush as those who market products making unfounded claims or contain controlled substances under the guise of being supplements.

A large proportion of industry members support the adverse events reporting bill that would require supplement labels to include a telephone number for the reporting of serious events, and require supplement companies to pass these reports on to the FDA within 15 days.

In terms of supplement consumption, the 2006 rate remains consistent with the survey's 2003, 2004 and 2005 results, which stood at 65 percent, 62 percent and 64 percent respectively. However, the findings reveal public confidence in the safety, quality and effectiveness of dietary supplements has slipped from 78 percent in 2004 to 69 percent this year.

There was a disparity between the results of the telephone and Internet surveys on the issue of the regularity of usage; 46 percent of those surveyed on the Internet said they are regular users versus 29 percent in the telephone survey.

CRN spokesperson Judy Blatman cited potential causes for the different results between the telephone and Internet surveys:

"For example, we believe that those who use the Internet regularly may be more likely to take control of their own health-care choices, with an increased ability to research healthcare issues and products,"​ she said. "Therefore, it makes sense that people who are Internet users and responded on-line would be more likely to use healthful products like supplements on a regular basis."

Confidence in supplements was stronger among those surveyed via the Internet - 79 percent of these respondents indicated they trust supplements to be safe and effective.

This worth noting as the Internet is a channel often favored by companies selling products that making unsubstantiated claims or masquerading as supplements, and it is harder to police than retail.

"…The results of the telephone survey indicate consumer trust is waning and that should be of great concern to this industry,"​ said Blatman. "Clearly we have an important job to do to boost confidence, but we also have an opportunity to increase usage by educating consumers about the safety, quality and benefits of our products."

This is the sixth year in which the telephone survey has been conducted and was the second year for the online survey. The random sample of US adults aged 18 and over, and results, were weighted to represent the U.S. adult population.

"Whether people are using supplements regularly, or seasonally as in the case of some of the herbals, it's clear that these are mainstream healthcare products - with more than 150 million Americans taking them annually,"​ said Blatman.

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