Dietitians Recommend, Use Supplements

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WASHINGTON—Registered dietitians use and recommend supplements, according to a new study published in the Nutrition Journal that used data from the 2009 “Life…supplemented" Healthcare Professionals (HCP) Impact Study (Nutr J. 2012 Mar 14;11(1):14).

When asked if they "ever recommend dietary supplements to clients," 97 percent of the respondents said they did. The primary reasons they recommend supplements were for bone health (70 percent), to fill nutrient gaps (67 percent), and overall health and wellness (49 percent). Eighty-seven percent of the dietitians agreed with the statement, "There are gaps in clients' diets that could effectively be addressed with dietary supplements."

According to the study, 74 percent of the dietitians surveyed said they were regular users of dietary supplements, while 22 percent said they used dietary supplements occasionally or seasonally. Dietitians said the primary reasons for using dietary supplements themselves were for bone health (58 percent), overall health and wellness (53 percent), and to fill nutrient gaps (42 percent). Other top reasons for recommending supplements included lowering cholesterol (48 percent), heart health (47 percent), dietary pattern/vegetarian/vegan (45 percent) and digestive and gastrointestinal health (41 percent).

Usage of a multivitamin was high amongst dietitians, with 84 percent of those surveyed indicating they had used a multivitamin within the past year. Looking at specialty supplement usage, omega-3 or fish oil supplements (47 percent), probiotics (24 percent), fiber (22 percent) and green tea supplements (18 percent) were cited by considerable proportions of surveyed dietitians. Several individual vitamins and minerals, including calcium (63 percent), vitamins D (43 percent), C (29 percent) and B (23 percent), were also reported to be used. 

The dietitians surveyed also said they followed healthy habits including eating a balanced diet (96 percent), managing stress (92 percent), visiting their health care professional regularly (86 percent), exercising regularly (83 percent), maintaining a healthy weight (80 percent), and getting a good night's sleep (72 percent). Only 24 percent said they often consumed large amounts of caffeine and only three percent smoked or consumed large quantities of alcohol.

Nearly all respondents (95 percent) expressed an interest in continuing education about dietary supplements on a variety of topics.

 “Dietitians are uniquely qualified to evaluate the adequacy of nutrient intake and to make rational choices about dietary supplement use for themselves and for their clients or patients, when appropriate," stated the study’s authors.

As one component of a series of surveys of health care professionals  for the "Life...supplemented" HCP Impact Studies, 300 registered dietitians were surveyed in 2009 regarding their personal use of dietary supplements and whether they recommend dietary supplements to their clients. Respondents were registered dietitians whose business involved seeing clients in a private practice or at a clinic.

These findings reflect findings from previous "Life…Supplemented" surveys of health care workers.  According to survey results from the 2009 "Life…supplemented" Healthcare Professionals Impact Study, 87 percent of nurse practitioners agreed that dietary supplements can play an important role in improving or maintaining the health of their patients.  And in 2011, the survey found nine in 10 (93 percent) of pharmacists said they recommend supplements to their customers, while 87 percent believed supplements can play an important role in improving or maintaining the health of their customers.

Last year, Nutrition Journal published findings from a separate 2008 study from “Life…supplemented" that found that for physician specialists―specifically dermatologists, cardiologists and orthopedists―personal usage of and patient recommendations for dietary supplements is quite common. In 2009, Nutrition Journal published findings from a separate 2007 “Life…supplemented" study that found that physicians and nurses are as likely as members of the general public to use dietary supplements and that most physicians and nurses recommend supplements to their patients.

'Life…Supplemented' is a campaign that teaches consumers of the benefits of supplementation along with the healthy lifestyle choices of diet and exercise. It campaign, now in its fifth year, is supported by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers and ingredient suppliers

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