Bigger role in preventative medicine for dietary supplements

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dietary supplements Medicine Dietary supplement caucus

Dietary supplements took a step closer to playing a key role in preventative medicine following a recent meeting in Washington DC between the Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus, and the trade associations Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and Natural Products Association.

Functional medicine, or personalized healthcare incorporating conventional and alternative therapies and dietary supplements, focuses on primary prevention and the underlying causes for serious illness.

Andrew Shao, CRN’s senior vice president, scientific and regulatory affairs, told NutraIngredientsUSA,com: “The preventive effects of certain dietary supplements are well documented, including strong evidence supporting the use of folic acid to prevent neural tube birth defects; omega-3 fatty acids to promote heart health; calcium and vitamin D to prevent osteoporosis; lutein to reduce the risk of macular degeneration; etc​.”

Macular degeneration

Observational studies have shown that people who engage in a healthy lifestyle - including eating a healthy diet, exercising, taking supplements, and not smoking, - tend to have lower rates of chronic disease, including cancer, he added.

The recent meeting, billed as Functional Medicine: Frontline Against Chronic Disease, was the sixth in a series of briefings since the inception of the Dietary Supplement Caucus in 2005.

The Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus is a group of Congress members that meet to discuss topics related to dietary supplements.

Dr Mark Hyman, medical director of The UltraWellness Center, told the meeting: “The irony is that the current healthcare system will pay for expensive medical treatments, but it won’t pay for dietary supplements to keep our bodies healthy. As a nation, we are overfed but undernourished. Dietary supplements play an important role in functional and preventive medicine​.”

Supplement industry

The meetings will continue on a quarterly basis, focusing on topics relevant to the dietary supplement industry and wellness arena and will feature speakers who will address the latest science and offer practical information. The next meeting will take place in the summer.

But CRN stressed that supplements represent not a complete health care solution but tools in integrated system. “It is important that both members of this industry and consumers alike understand that dietary supplements are not, in and of themselves “magic bullets” - which means industry should not promote them in that way, and consumers should not rely on them that way​,” said Shao.

Meanwhile, more than 150m Americans use dietary supplements each year, confirms CRN. “As more and more consumers and healthcare professionals recognize the health benefits that these products provide, we hope that the usage will reflect these shifts​,” said Shao.

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