Supplement dialogue strengthens on Capitol Hill

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dietary supplements Nutrition Health Crn Congress

The importance of dietary supplements in preventative healthcare has once more been highlighted to US health policy staffers, just weeks after the government announced more funds for the prevention of chronic diseases.

At a Congressional briefing held on Capitol Hill last week, members of Congress and nutrition experts stressed that as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle, supplements can help maintain the health of Americans and reduce healthcare costs.

The briefing was one in a series or meetings organized by the Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus. Made up of Members of Congress, the caucus was set up in 2006 in cooperation with two leading trade groups – Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and Natural Products Association (NPA).

“These meetings increase our visibility on the Hill,”​ said Steve Mister, president and CEO of CRN. “So much of what happens in Congress is based on relationships, so it’s important to have that continuous dialogue, which can help counter some of the misconceptions about supplements.”

“For some of the Congressional staffers, all they know about dietary supplements is what they read in the papers. These caucus briefings expose them to the real dietary supplement industry, and they come to recognize CRN and NPA as credible sources of information on supplements,”​ he told

Funds for disease prevention

Last month, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it had earmarked $250m for investment in the prevention of chronic diseases as part of the Prevention and Public Health Fund.

According to HHS, chronic diseases such as these are responsible for 7 of 10 deaths each year among Americans, and account for 75 percent of the nation’s health spending. “Many Americans engage in behaviors such as tobacco use, poor diet, physical inactivity, and alcohol abuse, which harm their health,”​ it said.

The $250m investment under this new fund is designed to tackle some of the underlying causes of chronic disease. It will be channelled into initiatives on a federal, state and community level to help prevent obesity and improve fitness. It will also be used to support the existing public health infrastructure, to develop research and tracking and to expand public health training initiatives.

Supplements: A bi-partisan issue

The Dietary Supplement Caucus is made up of both Republican and Democratic congressional members, which Mister says is important in demonstrating how issues relating to dietary supplements are bi-partisan. “Unlike so many other issues, this is an area where people can work together,”​ said Mister.

In last week’s meeting, co-chair of the DSC, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), described as a “champion”​ of the supplement industry, told attendees that “supplements used properly help prevent disease and promote good health as part of an overall healthy lifestyle”, ​adding that “scientific evidence strongly suggests that the use of daily dietary supplements would be an effective way to address nutritional gaps”​ in deficient populations.

Another speaker was registered dietician and president of Nutrition Housecall David Grotto. He said a healthy diet and lifestyle, along with appropriate dietary supplements, can “really make a difference in helping to mitigate”​ health problems, such as heart disease. He added that people have “lost touch”​ with the purpose of food and that most people are not meeting the Dietary Guidelines. “We don’t always necessarily eat the best every day of the week, so it does make sense to include some responsible dietary supplements along with that,”​ he said.

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