More Americans are turning to supplement use. Pharmacists can play an important role in educating them on safe and appropriate intake.
The results of a recent survey showed that Americans are taking more supplements than before the pandemic.
This rate has risen to 76% of Americans, according to the survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Samueli Foundation. Many respondents cited the desire to increase immunity and protection against COVID-19 as a reason for their increased supplement use. Further, many also used supplements to gain autonomy and power over their own health and to improve their mental health and sleep.
The survey included 2053 US adults, including 1531 who are currently taking supplements. Participants were surveyed from June 15 to 17, 2021.
The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the rise in supplement use. Wayne Jonas, MD, executive director of Integrative Health Programs at Samueli Foundation, explained that there are positive and negative components to supplement intake, as some individuals do not fully know the risks and safety issues associated with some supplements.
There is a misunderstanding that all supplements have been FDA approved and deemed safe and effective. Approximately half (52%) of adults in the United States believe that supplements are FDA approved, according to the survey. Additionally, over 1-third of those who take supplements think that supplements cannot be sold if they are dangerous.
However, supplements are not regulated. Although benefits do exist from supplements, there are possible risks and there is often a lack of information on them until users experience adverse effects. It is important for individuals to speak to their health care provider before starting supplement use; pharmacists can be a great resource for guiding patients on appropriate and safe supplement intake.
Despite this, fewer than half (47%) of Americans have consulted with their doctor before use. Supplements may also interact and interfere with prescription medications, and this is a possible cause for concern with the rising rates of supplement consumption.
A majority (81%) of individuals reported they would be willing to share their supplement intake information with a health care provider and believe it is important to share whether or not they are taking supplements, according to the findings.
Barriers to discussing supplement information with health care providers include:
As more individuals turn to supplements, it is important that information is accessible to help guide informed decisions. Health providers should aid patients in supplement choice and education for their well-being. Providers need to ask for this information and begin the conversation.
Additionally, it appears that 86% of Caucasian Americans reported being comfortable sharing their supplement intake compared with 67% of Hispanics and 75% of African Americans who participated in the survey.1
Many individuals fear judgment about supplement intake from their providers. Pharmacists can address this conversation in the pharmacy and provide education to the growing number of Americans taking supplements post-pandemic.