Four out of five physicians recommend supplements: CRN poll

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dietary supplements, Nutrition

The dietary supplements industry has been boosted by a Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) survey results that show 79 per cent of physicians and health care professionals recommend dietary supplements to their patients.

Bone, joint and heart health are among the main health conditions for which US health professionals recommend dietary supplements to patients.

Maintaining overall health and wellness and a healthy cholesterol level also figured highly in the survey that polled around 900 physicians and 300 registered nurses and nurse practitioners.

The results are informing CRN’s consumer wellness campaign “Life…supplemented”, for which consultant and CRN ex-president Annette Dickinson, Ph.D, filled in some of the gaps between the health conditions favored by physicians and the dietary supplements commonly used in their treatment.

The physicians were not asked to recommend specific supplements in the poll that was conducted last October but for which data analysis is ongoing.

The top five conditions were:

  • Bone Health 33% (of physicians recommending)
  • Overall health and wellness 32%
  • Joint health 29%
  • Heart health 26%
  • Maintain healthy cholesterol 22%

For each condition Dickinson highlighted various dietary supplements. These included:

Bone health -​Calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K and vitamin C.

Overall health and wellness benefits​ – a multivitamin with minerals “is king”, ​she said. Seventy two percent of patients said it is a good idea for patients to take a multivitamin. Others included omega-3 from fish oils, vitamin D, and antioxidants such as green tea and CoenzymeQ10.

Joint health​ – glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. “There is a strong body of human clinical trials that supports the safe use of glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, or their combination for significant and long-lasting decreases in joint pain and improvements in mobility,”​ Dickinson said. About 21 million US adults have osteoarthritis.

Heart Health​ - omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). “They reduce inflammation, reduce the tendency to form clots, decrease the likelihood of developing cardiac arrhythmia, and at high levels lower triglyceride levels,” ​Dickinson observed.

Other options include vitamin E and B vitamins. Dickinson: “Observational studies suggest benefits for heart health from taking at least 200 IU of vitamin E per day—an amount impossible to obtain from diet alone. And observational studies have shown that generous amounts of B vitamins, such as folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12, can lower homocysteine, which may help prevent heart attacks, although that has not been borne out by recent clinical trials.”

Maintain healthy cholesterol -​ Soluble fiber in foods and supplements, soy protein, phytosterols and stanol or sterol esters are highlighted.

Physician use

Of the 72 percent of physicians who say they use dietary supplements 87 percent used a multivitamin, 78 percent use vitamin C, 63 percent use B vitamins, 59 per cent use vitamin D, 58 percent use vitamin E as well as calcium. Female physicians are more likely than male physicians to take single vitamins or mineral supplements (48 percent versus 35 percent). They also take more calcium and iron.

Male physicians are more likely to take fish oil (52 percent versus 34 percent). They are more likely to cite heart health and maintaining healthy cholesterol as reasons for taking dietary supplements. Twenty seven percent of male physicians take supplements for heart health and maintaining healthy cholesterol (22%), while just 14% and 12% of female physicians do the same.

The research forms part of CRN's three-year public relations campaign, "Life…supplemented".

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 project is drawing on the support of over 25 dietary supplement companies.

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