They'll chat about your bowel movements, the 20 pounds you should lose and that funny thing growing on your back, but many doctors don't talk about dietary supplements. A new study reveals that many physicians don't discuss risks, effectiveness and interactions of supplements with their patients.
The study was published in the journal Patient Education and Counseling and noted in U.S. News & World Report.
"This is the first study to look at the actual content of conversations about dietary supplements in a primary-care setting," study primary investigator Dr. Derjung Tarn, an assistant professor of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in the story.
Researchers analyzed transcripts of audio recordings made during office visits by nearly 1,500 patients to 102 primary-care doctors between 1998 and 2010. Of those patients, about 350 had discussions about more than 700 dietary supplements. Of the five major supplement-related tops researchers focusedon, (reason for use, how to use, potential risks, effectiveness and cost), fewer than two of the topics were usually discussed. All five topics were covered during discussions of only six of the more than 700 supplements. None of the topics arose for nearly 300 of the supplements patients told their doctors they were taking.
"The bottom line was that discussions about meaningful topics such as risks, effectiveness and costs that might inform patient decisions about taking dietary supplements were sparse," Tarn said. Americans' supplement use is on the rise.
On the bright side, researchers found that doctors did mention herbal supplements.