Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Dietary Supplement Use, Knowledge, and Perceptions among Student Pharmacists

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Dietary Supplement Use, Knowledge, and Perceptions among Student Pharmacists

Article excerpt

Objective. To compare dietary supplement use between student pharmacists and the general population, and assess knowledge, attitudes toward use, and dietary supplement effectiveness; and to explore how student pharmacists view their education on dietary supplements.

Methods. Paper questionnaires administered to student pharmacists collected data about their use, knowledge, and attitudes of dietary supplements. Use was compared to the 2007 National Health Interview survey findings.

Results. Of 179 students who responded, 52% had used at least one dietary supplement in their lifetime versus 25% in the general population. Students perceived supplement label information as unhelpful, research into supplements inadequate, and supplements non-essential to health. Students thought supplement knowledge was important but their education was inadequate.

Conclusion. Dietary supplement use was higher in this sample of student pharmacists than the general population. Student pharmacists had limited knowledge and need more education on dietary supplements.

Keywords: dietary supplements use, dietary supplements knowledge, dietary supplements education


The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 assured consumer access to a wide range of dietary supplements. (1) A dietary supplement is defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as "a product intended for ingestion that contains a "dietary ingredient" intended to add further nutritional value to (supplement) the diet." (2) A "dietary ingredient" is defined as "one, or any combination, of the following substances: a vitamin, a mineral, an herb or other botanical, an amino acid, a dietary substance for use by people to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake, a concentrate, metabolite, constituent or extract." (2) Dietary supplements are available in many different formulations and are used to increase dietary intake of essential nutrients and reduce disease risk. (2) A variety of dietary supplements are now available in the United States including single-ingredient products and various combinations of vitamins, minerals, botanicals and other constituents. (1) There is considerable media attention on supplements, including advertisement, informational articles, and studies reporting associations with health conditions. (1) Supplement sales in the United States reached $28 billion in 2010, and are forecast to reach $36 billion by 2017. (3)

Dietary and herbal supplement use is common and rapidly rising throughout the US. (1,4-6) According to data from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, 25% of adults in the US had ever used (ie, used a dietary supplement sometime in their life) a dietary or herbal supplement. (7) Dietary supplement use is associated with education and race/ethnicity. (6) The most commonly used dietary supplements include multivitamins/multiminerals, vitamin C, vitamin E, and calcium. (1) The top non-multivitamin/non-multimineral dietary supplements include fish oil, omega-3/DHA, glucosamine, echinacea, flaxseed oil, chondroitin and ginseng. (7)

Manufacturers are not required to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of herbal supplements to the FDA. (8) Therefore it is essential that consumers have good knowledge about dietary and herbal supplements so that they are used safely and effectively. Individuals with higher education and a high level of dietary supplement knowledge, such as student pharmacists, are likely to be more selective with their use of dietary or herbal supplements than the general population. Comparing use of dietary supplements between student pharmacists and the general population should provide insight into the influence of knowledge on dietary and herbal supplement use.

Given the widespread use of dietary and herbal supplements, it is important for pharmacists to be well-informed about these products. However, it has been noted that community pharmacists have poor knowledge of dietary and herbal supplements (9,10) and are not proactively inquiring about their patients' dietary and herbal supplement use. …

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