Doctors, nurses use and recommend supplements

NEW YORK - Doctors and nurses commonly take vitamin, mineral, and other dietary supplements themselves, and recommend the same to their patients, results of a survey indicate.

Yet, most of the 900 physicians and 277 nurses surveyed admitted having no formal education or training on the use of dietary supplements, according to a report in the Nutrition Journal, an online publication of BioMed Central.

Dr. Annette Dickinson, from Dickinson Consulting, LLC in St. Paul, Minnesota and colleagues found that 72 percent of the doctors and 89 percent of the nurses use some sort of dietary supplement regularly, occasionally, or seasonally. Moreover, 79 percent of the physicians and 82 percent of the nurses recommend dietary supplements to their patients.

The online survey was administered in October 2007 by New York City-based Ipsos Public Affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing the dietary supplement industry.

The physicians, 83 percent male, included about equal numbers of primary care doctors, obstetricians/gynecologists, and other specialists, but no pediatricians. About 72 percent of the doctors were 40 to 59 years old, as were 69 percent of the mostly female (94 percent) nurses surveyed.

Overall, more than half of the doctors and nurses said they regularly use dietary supplements, most commonly for improved general health and wellness.

About 24 percent of the doctors and 27 percent of the nurses reported using only multivitamins. Another 27 and 32 percent, respectively, took individual vitamin and mineral supplements plus other supplemental compounds thought to benefit cardiovascular, joint, or general health, and cognition, such as green tea, fish oil, glucosamine, flax seed, chondroitin, and echinacea.

The findings further suggest a desire for improved education on the use of dietary supplements, as 75 and 79 percent of the doctors and nurses expressed interest in continuing education on these products.

Such education "would be beneficial for physicians and nurses as well as for the patients they treat and serve," Dickinson and colleagues conclude.

By Joene Hendry

SOURCE: Nutrition Journal, published online July 1, 2009.

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