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Study finds physicians, nurses use dietary supplements, recommend them to patients


WASHINGTON Physicians and nurses are as likely as members of the general public to use dietary supplements and most physicians and nurses recommend supplements to their patients, according to a new study published in Nutrition Journal.

The study, which utilized data from the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s “Life…supplemented” Healthcare Professionals Impact Study, found that 72% of physicians and 89 of nurses used dietary supplements and that 79% of physicians and 82% of nurses said that they recommend dietary supplements to their patients.

“Health professionals including physicians and nurses are just as interested in healthy lifestyles as members of the general public and are just as likely to benefit from rational supplementation,” said lead author Annette Dickinson, consultant and past president of CRN.

The study found that the dietary supplement product most commonly used was the multivitamin, with or without minerals. Vitamins and other minerals most commonly used by both physicians and nurses after multivitamins included vitamin C, a B vitamin complex, vitamin D, vitamin E and calcium. However, physicians and nurses seemed to differ slightly on the non-vitamin and mineral products they used most often — physicians reported higher usages of green tea, fish oil, glucosamine, soy, flax seed and chondroitin (in that order) while nurses tended to use green tea, fish oil, echinacea, glucosamine and flax seed, respectively.

Overall health and wellness is the biggest motivator for taking dietary supplements, according to 40% of physicians and 48% of nurses who take supplements. However, more than two-thirds cited multiple motivations, including bone health, flu or colds, heart health, immune health, joint health, energy and musculoskeletal pain. Most physicians and nurses cite similar reasons for recommending dietary supplements to their patients, with the most common reason being for overall health and wellness (41% of physicians who recommend supplements and 62% of nurses who do). Over three-quarters (75% of physicians and 79% of nurses) also indicated that they would be interested in Continuing Medical Education regarding dietary supplements.

“It may appear surprising that physicians and nurses are as likely as the general population to be using dietary supplements, given the negative views sometimes expressed editorially in medical journals,” Dickinson said. “Physicians and nurses, as well as lay consumers, are exposed to these divergent views and must make their own decisions regarding their personal approach to wellness. The majority opt to use dietary supplements.”

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