Part I: Prevalence of Dietary and Herbal Supplement use
The dietary supplement industry contributes a significant amount to the U.S. economy, accounting for about $121 billion in total economic output according to a 2016 study funded by the Council for Responsible Nutrition. Manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers, sellers and retailers directly employed nearly 400,000 Americans in 2016, not including related industries like commercial equipment manufacturers for the supplements, laboratory facilities that test these products, and even organizations that promote or oversee the industry. Sales accounted for $37 billion (about 25%) of that economic output according to the National Institute of Health. All this to say, that the vitamin and supplement industry is measurably expanding, thriving, and driven by consumer demand.
Rising healthcare expenses over the last 10 years have encouraged individuals to research and purchase dietary supplements as an alternative, or to complement traditional medical care typically provided by their primary care physicians, especially to alleviate common health complications. The rise of the aging population is another factor that has sustained the demand for mainstream vitamins and condition-specific supplements for energy, joint health, and wellness. Increasing disposable income levels coupled with a growing interest in recreational fitness and preventative healthcare also have boosted the demand for nutritional products and herbal supplements. Perhaps a large contribution to the growth of the supplement industry has come from the internet, allowing consumers access to information and vendors which has enlarged the marketplace for sales and prevalent use of these products.
It wasn’t too long ago when buying supplements or products required you to do a few things before making a decision to buy. You might have seen an ad on TV or the magazine, or heard on the radio about a certain product you might be interested in using because of a proposed benefit. You then pick up a product sheet from the local nutrition shop, and if you are fortunate enough, might even talk to an experienced customer service attendant in the shop who might give you other suggestions and possibly other customer experiences and testimonials about the product you are researching. Finally, you consider if the cost is worth the potential benefit of the product, and then you buy the product, use it, and wait for the results…if at all.
There are so many aspects to supplement use that is too extensive and numerous to address here in Part I, so I’ll try to address them in Part II, most notably the areas of quality assurance, potency, validity of research, vendor reputation, relevance, and risk. Supplement use is so ubiquitous in our culture, and is projected to increase in the immediate future. The informed individual becomes an empowered consumer in the supplement marketplace, which is important when making cost, risk and benefit decisions on what they put into their body.
There’s some very good reasons why people are turning to foods and supplements for health benefits. A thriving health product industry reflects a growing awareness for individual responsibility over traditional healthcare models. And with any industry, the more money there is to be made, the more opportunity there is for abuse. So buyer beware, and stay tuned for Part II.
Dr. Adrian Pujayana has been providing drug-free solutions for health and wellness to adults, athletes, and youth since 2000 through his private practice at Family Chiropractic Center of South Pasadena, a place for strength training and nutrition based health care.