Survey Finds More People Using Daily Supplements
Results from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) show increasing dietary supplement use by US adults and widespread use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, according to reports in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (2004;104:942–50) and Advance Data from Vital and Health Statistics (2004;343:1–20).
Since 1957, the US Bureau of the Census for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics has annually surveyed US households to get health information through in-person interviews. In 1987, 1992, and 2000, a supplemental questionnaire was given to a large subset of survey participants believed to reflect the general population. The extra survey included questions about vitamin and mineral supplements use, and additionally in 2000, about nonvitamin and nonmineral supplement use, such as herbs and nutrition.
More than 22,000 people in 1987, 12,000 people in 1992, and 32,000 people in 2000 answered the supplemental survey. Although the percentage of people reporting a history of vitamin or mineral supplements use did not change significantly over time, the percentage of people reporting daily use of vitamin and mineral supplements was more than 40% higher in 2000 (33.9%) than either 1987 (23.7%) or 1992 (23.2%). Daily use of vitamins A, C, and E, and calcium also increased significantly between 1987 and 2000. In 2000, 14.5% of adults reported ever having used non-vitamin and non-mineral supplements, and 6% reported using them daily.
In 2002, more than 31,000 people participating in the NHIS answered another supplemental questionnaire that asked about their use of 27 CAM therapies. Seventy-five percent of adults reported ever having used CAM, and 62% said they had used CAM in the past 12 months. The most commonly used CAM therapies included prayer for one’s health, by oneself, others, or in a group (45%); natural products, such as nutritional and herbal supplements (18.9%); deep-breathing exercises (11.6%); meditation (7.6%); chiropractic (7.5%); yoga (5.1%); massage (5%); and therapeutic diets (3.5%).
Back pain was the most common health condition treated with CAM (16.8%), followed by head and chest colds (9.5%), neck pain (6.6%), joint pain (4.9%), and anxiety and depression (4.5%).Thirty-six percent of people had used CAM therapies other than prayer. Of people who had used CAM, 54.9% thought it would be effective in combination with conventional medical treatment, 28% reported believing that conventional medical treatment could not help them, and 26% reported that a conventional healthcare provider recommended CAM.
The findings of these reports give us a better picture of changing healthcare trends, which may be used in the future to develop our understanding of the relationship between CAM use and health. If the number of people who report using CAM therapies in conjunction with conventional treatments and as a result of advice from conventional practitioners continues to increase, the designations of “conventional” and “complementary and alternative” may no longer be accurate.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.
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