Dietary supplements help the body function in many ways, from preventing disease to supporting weight loss. These supplements come in the form of vitamins, minerals, herbs and botanicals, amino acids, enzymes, probiotics, and antioxidants. A stroll down the vitamin aisle at a healthcare store or grocery chain will reveal the many different products available, from multivitamins and calcium tablets to herbal teas and energy bars.
Registered dietitians (RDNs) often recommend supplements to their clients, but how do they choose which ones? What makes one supplement more effective than another? And why are some supplements more popular than others? To find out, Trust Transparency Center commissioned a national survey of 200 U.S.-based RDNs, with respondents representing a diverse range of backgrounds, specialties and practice settings.
The survey, titled “Dietary Supplements and the RDN,” found that 66% of dietitians surveyed both recommended dietary supplements to their clients and personally took them four or more times per week. Among those who personally use supplements, the majority do so for reasons related to nutrient deficiencies (52%), personal research (49%), and/or a physician or healthcare professional recommendation (31%).
In addition to being knowledgeable about dietary supplement safety and efficacy, dietitians are uniquely qualified to evaluate nutrient intakes and make rational choices regarding supplemental use for themselves and their clients. And since not all dietary supplements are created equal, dietitians can also provide guidance on selecting high-quality dietary supplements by recommending brands that adhere to current Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) guidelines and labeling regulations.
Almost all of the dietitians in the survey reported that their clients were comfortable discussing their use of dietary supplements with them. Moreover, nearly all dietitians surveyed reported that they believed their clients had gaps in their diets that could be effectively addressed by the use of dietary supplements. Women’s health (pregnancy and/or prenatal) was cited as the top reason for recommending dietary supplements to their clients, followed by men’s health, sports nutrition and performance, and general wellness.
Although authoritative groups continue to encourage a “food first” approach to achieving nutrient adequacy, most people’s dietary intakes fall short in some respects, and supplemental use can be a helpful solution. This is especially true when a client has specific health-related goals, such as avoiding certain foods or improving their chronic health condition symptoms.
It’s important to note that if you’re taking a dietary supplement and experience a negative side effect, it’s best to tell your healthcare professional or the FDA. A single adverse event can help the FDA identify a product with potentially dangerous risks and take it off the market. For more information on reporting an adverse event, visit FDA’s website. You can also report a problem with a specific dietary supplement by using the FDA’s online Adverse Event Reporting System. This is a free, anonymous service that’s accessible to all Americans. Click the link below to get started.