Natural Foods Merchandiser

Consumers' Confidence In Supplements Rises

The academic and corporate worlds have been busy conducting research into the uses and users of nutritional supplements.

The Natural Marketing Institute of Harleysville, Pa., has released key findings of NMI?s 2003 ?Health and Wellness Trends Database? study. In the survey of more than 2,000 consumer households, more than 57 percent of those polled agreed that taking vitamins and minerals is ?extremely? or ?very? important in maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle. This result continues a trend of 3 percent compound annual growth over the past five years, which NMI considers significant in a mature category.

The study also found that more than 85 percent of the general population has used some type of nutritional supplement in the past year and more than 59 percent use them on a daily basis. An increasing number of consumers cite immediate benefits, such as improved appearance, as a reason for maintaining a healthy lifestyle—up 4.2 percent over the past five years—although longevity and disease prevention remain the primary reasons.

Spreading The Word
Meanwhile, some members of Congress have yet to be convinced of the benefits of supplements. That?s where the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance steps in.

The organization will expand its role in 2004 to include educating members of Congress and their staff about dietary supplements. DSEA Board Chairman Elliott Balbert notes that this campaign comes at an important juncture for the industry. ?Dietary supplements are a hot topic in Congress right now, and we have to ensure that our lawmakers understand the important role that these products play in public health,? he said in a news release.

The DSEA?s plan includes special events on Capitol Hill, economic and public health impact studies, advertising and regular communications with members of Congress and their staff to clear up media disinformation about supplements, to highlight supplements? health benefits and to emphasize the economic impact of supplements. ?Most members of Congress do not understand what dietary supplements are, how they keep people healthy or how they actually reduce health care costs,? Balbert said. ?Informed members of Congress are much more likely to support intelligent legislation that taps into the huge potential of dietary supplements.?

The Once And Future Research
Finding it difficult to stay on top of new supps research? At the 2003 annual meeting of the American Dietetic Association, the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health released the fourth edition of the Annual Bibliography of Significant Advances in Dietary Supplement Research, a compendium of research published in 2002.

An international team of 45 reviewers in the fields of nutrition, botanical sciences and public health reviewed and ranked articles from 34 peer-reviewed journals, selecting the top 25 for publication. Articles include research on antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids, botanicals, fiber and soy.

To view downloadable copies of previous issues of the Annual Bibliography, visit

Also, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, in the September/October 2003 issue of its publication Endocrine Practice, published the ?American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Medical Guidelines for the Clinical Use of Dietary Supplements and Nutraceuticals.? According to the AACE, the purpose of the 54-page article is to ?discuss alternative care medicine, introduce dietary supplements and nutraceuticals and define their nature, present a strategy for discussing dietary supplements and nutraceuticals with patients, provide a list of resources to peruse for further education, and review specific dietary supplements and nutraceuticals in detail based on levels of scientific substantiation.?

The report serves as a useful educational tool, as well as a window into the medical establishment?s view of alternative practices. The full article is available at

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXV/number 1/p. 18

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