Dietary Supplement Education Campaign launched
The Dietary Supplement Education Alliance (DSEA), a partnership created in June to promote the responsible use of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and supplements, has gotten off to an ambitious start. DSEA recently launched a public education campaign that focuses on the health benefits, safety, and regulation of dietary supplements. Information will be disseminated through the Dietary Supplement Information Bureau and the bureau's Web site, www.supplementinfo.org .
DSEA is made up of the following entities: the American Herbal Products Association, Corporate Alliance for Integrative Medicine, National Nutritional Foods Association, New Hope Natural Media/Penton Media, and Virgo Publishing.
The campaign, announced at a press conference held recently in New York City, follows on the heels of a survey conducted for DSEA by Harris Interactive. "The Dietary Supplement Barometer Survey revealed that although Americans regularly incorporate supplements in their healthcare regimen, many would welcome more information about the benefits and responsible use of supplements," said DSEA acting chairman Elliott Balbert.
"The Dietary Supplement Information Bureau has been designed as a repository of science-based information about all aspects of supplementationthe size of the industry, how dietary supplements are manufactured, regulated, and used," stated Balbert.
The new Web site is being launched in partnership with IntraMedicine, a Web-based research firm. "Anyone in the United States seeking information on any dietary supplement will have unrestricted access to real time on-line reporting of the latest science-based facts available. Our survey showed this information is needed," said Balbert.
Another panelist at the press conference, Maryellen Molyneaux, president of The Natural Marketing Institute, Harleysville, Pa., presented findings from two studies that she claimed support the need for consumer information about supplements.
In the Dietary Supplement Barometer Survey, 1,027 adults were surveyed by phone in June. The second study, the Natural Marketing Institute's Health and Wellness Trends Report, used more than 500,000 households. The company extrapolated a representative U.S. sample and mailed a 12-page questionnaire to this group. More than 2,000 consumer household responses were received.
Noting that 85% of the general population of America has used some type of supplement within the past year, Molyneaux said, "Both surveys indicated 57% to 59% have used supplements more than one time a day. Vitamins and minerals make up the mainstream. Eighty-three percent of consumers have used vitamins and minerals in the past year, and 57% use them more than one time a day. When you look at herbal supplements, 37% of the general population has used them within the past year, and 16% use them more than one time a day," she said.
Molyneaux pointed out that there are a significant number of new users in the dietary supplement marketplace. "Thirty percent of the herbal supplement user group is new within the past year. That equates to 11% of the general population who used herbal supplements for the first time last year. Seventeen percent of the general population is using vitamins and minerals for the first time in the past year. There is an incredible need to educate these consumers," said Molyneaux.
Another panelist, Sen. Tom Harkin (D, Iowa), one of the architects of the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act (DSHEA), agreed that more education in this area is needed. "Consumers are becoming more educated, but, as the survey shows, there are some gaps in this education that need to be filled in," said Harkin. "Consumers want and need access to high-quality, reliable information. This campaign will improve health, extend lives, and reduce healthcare costs by keeping people healthy."
As the chair of the U.S. Senate panel that funds health care and education, Harkin indicated he would work to expand funding for education, information, and research on supplements by the National Institutes of Health and the National Center on Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Harkin recently proposed legislation to provide consumers with tax deductibility for dietary supplements to be offered as part of a worker's health insurance coverage (Drug Topics, Aug. 16). He is also chairman of the Agriculture Committee and said he will work to allow food stamps to be used to purchase vitamins, minerals, and nutritional supplements.
Sandra Levy. Dietary supplement industry launches education campaign.