A national study released July 30 reported that 70 percent of respondents were "extremely satisfied" (23 percent) or "very satisfied" (47 percent) with the dietary supplements they were taking. The study, prepared by Harris Interactive Inc./Yankelovich Partners, was unveiled at a press conference in New York City where Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, announced his support for the recently formed Dietary Supplement Education Alliance.
Harkin, who along with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was an original framer of 1994's Dietary Supplement Heath Education Act, said DSEA's efforts to educate the public complement similar efforts by the federal Office of Dietary Supplements. DSEA is an alliance of various dietary supplements trade organizations and companies. The purpose of the alliance is to "close the pervasive information gap," Elliot Balbert, the organization's acting president, said last month (Natural Foods Merchandiser, July 2001).
One of DSEA's first public acts was to commission the Harris/Yankelovich study, which reported that 69 percent of respondents said yes when asked if they had all the information they needed to understand the health benefits of dietary supplements (28 percent answered no). But fewer people (59 percent) said they had enough information to avoid potential adverse reactions to dietary supplements, while 37 percent said they didn't have enough information in this regard.
The study also said that 59 percent of participants take dietary supplements regularly. Of those, 46 percent take multiple vitamins, while 35 percent take single vitamins (e.g., vitamin C, vitamin E or vitamin B complex). Just 15 percent use either herbal supplements (e.g., garlic, ginseng, St. John's wort) or single minerals such as iron or zinc.
Among the reasons given for taking supplements were: to feel better (72 percent); to help prevent illness (67 percent); to recover from illness (51 percent); to live longer (50 percent); to build strength/muscle (37 percent); or for a specific health reason (36 percent). Interestingly, 33 percent of respondents reported they took supplements on the advice of their doctor, while 49 percent said they talked to their doctor about when and how to take them. (This compares with 92 percent who talk with their doctor about prescription drugs.) Observers have commented that better physician education would greatly help the industry, which last year saw stock values sag amidst generally bad press.
More information about the study—as well as DSEA and related topics—is posted on the organization's Web site: www.supplementinfo.org.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXII/number 8/p. 1