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Supplement Use Widespread Among Americans
Date:11/20/2012

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A new survey estimates that one in seven people in the United States regularly takes supplements that aren't vitamins or minerals -- such as fish oil, echinacea or ginseng -- but only 30 percent of them have had a doctor or nurse recommend supplements.

About one-third of supplement users have not alerted their doctor, even though they may take the drug for a potentially serious health issue, such as high blood pressure, arthritis or depression, the survey found.

"These are things that clinicians often treat with more complex treatments," said Robert Blendon, a professor of health policy at Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of a letter in the Nov. 19 issue of the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. "They need to be aware that people are using this as one form of treatment."

Although supplement use is widespread, not much is known about why people take these capsules, syrups and tablets, the researchers said. To address that gap, they surveyed nearly 1,600 people in the United States in 2011, weighing the answers to make the demographics of the group reflect those of the country at large.

Of those surveyed, 38 percent said they'd taken supplements -- but not vitamins or minerals -- in the past two years, and 14 percent said they did so regularly.

The most common reasons for taking supplements were to feel better, to improve energy and to boost the immune system. Smaller numbers of respondents reported taking supplements to treat digestive issues (28 percent), relieve pain (26 percent), lower cholesterol (21 percent) or blood pressure (16 percent), or to improve mood or depression (12 percent).

Fish oil tablets were the most frequently taken supplements. About one in four respondents said they had taken fish oil or related omega-3 supplements in the past two years.

The authors noted that percep
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