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Special Article
March 26, 2001

Americans' Views on the Use and Regulation of Dietary Supplements

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston (Drs Blendon and DesRoches and Mr Benson), John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge (Dr Blendon), Mass; Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, Calif (Drs Brodie and Altman).

Arch Intern Med. 2001;161(6):805-810. doi:10.1001/archinte.161.6.805

This article presents the views of Americans on what the government's future role should be in regulating or overseeing the growing sales of dietary supplements for health purposes. Based on results of multiple national opinion surveys, including the views of both users and nonusers of supplements, we found that a substantial percentage of Americans surveyed reported that they regularly take dietary supplements as a part of their routine health regimen. However, they reported that they do not discuss the use of dietary supplements with their physicians because they believe that the physicians know little or nothing about these products and may be biased against them. Many users felt so strongly about the potential health benefits of some of these products that they reported that they would continue to take them even if they were shown to be ineffective in scientifically conducted clinical studies. However, there also was broad public support for increased government regulation of these products. We found that a majority of Americans surveyed supported the following: to require that the Food and Drug Administration review the safety of new dietary supplements prior to their sale; to provide increased authority to remove from sale those products shown to be unsafe; and to increase government regulation to ensure that advertising claims about the health benefits of dietary supplements are true.

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