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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Food

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Consumer Research on Dietary Supplements

Below are research abstracts of consumer research studies conducted or supported by the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition.

The FDA Health and Diet Survey: A Data Resource.

The Health and Diet Survey is a national consumer survey conducted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The national single-stage random-digit-dialing telephone survey was administered in the fall of 2002 to a total of 2,743 non-institutionalized adult respondents in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The purpose of the survey was to track and gather new information on consumer awareness, attitudes and practices related to health and diet issues. In particular, the survey focused on foods and dietary supplements, two categories of the consumer products regulated by the FDA. On diet and health, the survey asked about (1) awareness of the relationship between diet and diseases (cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure), (2) knowledge of fats and cholesterol, (3) knowledge of dietary deficiencies, (4) dietary management practices, and (5) use and impact of food labels. On dietary supplements, the survey asked about (1) prevalence of use, (2) information sources and uses, (3) perceptions of dietary supplements and their labels, (4) substitution of dietary supplements for prescription or over-the-counter drugs, (5) adverse experiences with dietary supplements, and (6) children's and teenagers' use of dietary supplements. The available demographic information includes gender, age, education, race/ethnicity, household size, pregnancy/lactation status, health status, region, and household income.

Patterns of Nutrient Intake Among Dietary Supplement Users: Attitudinal and Behavioral Correlates.
1987. Alan S. Levy and Raymond E. Schucker. Journal of American Dietetic Association 87(6):754-760.

A national telephone interview survey of an age-stratified random sample of 2,991 adults, aged 16 and over, provided detailed information from 1,142 vitamin and mineral supplement users about their nutrient intake patterns from dietary supplements. Dietary supplement users were divided into four groups (Light, Moderate, Heavy, and Very Heavy) on the basis of the type and amount of nutrient intake from supplements. The Light, Moderate, Heavy, and Very Heavy nutrient intake groups accounted for 42%, 16%, 28%, and 14%, respectively, of the total users. Young supplement users (aged 16 to 25) tended to be in the Light user group. Older adults (aged 41 to 64) and residents of the western United States tended to be in the Heavy and Very Heavy user groups. Users in the Light and Moderate nutrient intake groups generally used only one broad-spectrum vitamin and mineral product. Users in the Heavy and Very Heavy groups were typically taking two or more specialized vitamin and mineral product at a time as part of a personalized supplement regimen. Heavy and Very Heavy nutrient intakes were associated with more frequent visits to health food stores, greater nutrition activity, and less physician involvement. Light and Moderate nutrient intakes were more likely to be associated with a defensive interest in avoiding nutritional deficiencies. The implications of generally different motivations for dietary supplement use are discussed in the context of public information strategies.

Trends in Prevalence and Magnitude of Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Usage and Correlation with Health Status.
1992. Mary M. Bender, Alan S. Levy, Raymond E. Schucker, Elizabeth A. Yetley. Journal of American Dietetic Association. 92:1096-1101.

The 1980 Food and Drug Administration Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Use Survey and the 1986 National Health Interview Survey used similar questions and procedures to estimate and identify trends in the prevalence and magnitude of supplement usage in the United States. A comparison of the two surveys reveals that prevalence of supplement use among adults decreased slightly, from 42% in 1980 to 38% in 1986. The magnitude of supplement use has also decreased; users reported taking a mean of 2.15 supplements in 1980 compared with a mean of 1.77 in 1986. The prevalence of supplement users identified as light users increased from 42% in 1980 to 57% in 1986. Supplement usage was more likely and more intense among individuals who had one or more health problems and among individuals who perceived their health as very good or excellent. The findings indicate that supplement usage remains a widespread behavior linked to popular conceptions of good health and well-being but one that is susceptible to change.

Contact Linda.Verrill@fda.hhs.gov for more information about the above studies.