In addition to prescribing natural and herbal products for patients, health professionals can also use supplements in their practices. Many supplements are effective in preventing or treating disease, and they can help patients achieve better health. A physician should periodically ask patients about their use of complementary and alternative medicines. Many physicians are already incorporating supplements into their practices for various reasons, including proven effectiveness, the desire to improve patient health, and their belief in the safety and efficacy of such products.
According to several surveys, dietary supplements are commonly used by health professionals. The results from the Bailey study, for example, found that nearly half of U.S. adults consume nutritional supplements. Further, a Medscape poll of health professionals revealed that 62% of those aged 40 and older used dietary supplements. Another study conducted in Washington state found that 58% of women and 72% of men used nutritional supplements on a regular basis.
In a recent interview, Dr. Cohen, a Harvard-trained physician-scientist and professor of obesity medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, discussed the role of supplements in changing diets and lifestyles. She said that the introduction of supplements has impacted the field of medicine and the way people view and use them.
Regardless of the industry, health professionals can access information about dietary supplements through the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. This office offers extensive information about vitamin and mineral supplements as well as botanical supplements, probiotics, and other dietary supplements. There are also many resources available in Spanish and in English for health professionals.
While the numbers of physicians and nurses who use dietary supplements may vary greatly, they generally report a high level of supplement use. Interestingly, dietary supplement use is more common among physicians than in the general population. A recent survey reported that approximately 50% of male medical students and 63% of female physicians reported that they used dietary supplements regularly.