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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Dietary supplement use among health care professionals enrolled in an online curriculum on herbs and dietary supplements

Paula Gardiner14*, Charles Woods24 and Kathi J Kemper34

Author Affiliations

1 Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

2 Department of Pediatrics and Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA

3 Department of Pediatrics, Public Health Sciences and Family and Community Medicine, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, USA

4 Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medical Therapies, Osher Institute, Harvard Medical School, 401 Park Drive Suite 22A-West, Boston, MA 02215

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2006, 6:21  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-21

Published: 12 June 2006

Abstract

Background

Although many health care professionals (HCPs) in the United States have been educated about and recommend dietary supplements, little is known about their personal use of dietary supplements and factors associated with their use.

Methods

We surveyed HCPs at the point of their enrollment in an on-line course about dietary supplements between September, 2004 and May, 2005. We used multivariable logistic regression to analyze demographic and practice factors associated with use of dietary supplements.

Results

Of the 1249 health care professionals surveyed, 81 % reported having used a vitamin, mineral, or other non-herbal dietary supplements in the last week. Use varied by profession with highest rates among nurses (88%), physician assistants or nurse practitioners (84 %) and the lowest rates among pharmacists (66%) and trainees (72%). The most frequently used supplements were multivitamins (60%), calcium (40%), vitamin B (31%), vitamin C (30%), and fish oil (24%). Factors associated with higher supplement use were older age, female, high knowledge of dietary supplements, and discussing dietary supplements with patients. In our adjusted model, nurses were more likely than other professionals to use a multivitamin and students were more likely to use calcium.

Conclusion

Among HCPs enrolled in an on-line course about dietary supplements, women, older clinicians, those with higher knowledge and those who talk with patients about dietary supplements had higher use of dietary supplements. Additional research is necessary to understand the impact of professionals' personal use of dietary supplements on communication with patients about them.