Survey Finds 3 in 10 Americans Increased Supplement Use Since COVID-19 Pandemic

A new survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Samueli Foundation found that 29% of Americans are taking more supplements compared with before the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the nationwide percentage of supplement-takers to 76%.

A new survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Samueli Foundation found that 29% of Americans are taking more supplements compared with before the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing the nationwide percentage of supplement-takers to 76%.

The results showed that nearly two-thirds of those who increased supplement use (65%) cited a desire to enhance their overall immunity (57%) or protection from COVID-19 (36%) as reasons for the spike. Other reasons for the increase included taking control of their own health (42%), improving sleep (41%), and improving their mental health (34%).

"The COVID-19 pandemic is a catalyst for increased supplement use," said Wayne Jonas, MD, executive director of Integrative Health Programs at Samueli Foundation, in a press release. "Supplements, when used under the guidance of health care professionals, can be beneficial for one's health. Unfortunately, however, many people are unaware of the risks and safety issues associated with their use."

Additional results showed that more than half of those surveyed taking supplements (52%) mistakenly believe that most dietary supplements available for purchase have been declared safe and effective by the FDA. Approximately 32% indicated that if a supplement could be dangerous, it would not be allowed to be sold in the United States.

"Contrary to what many believe, the FDA does not regulate supplements. In fact, many supplements are not identified as dangerous until after people are negatively affected by them,” Jonas said in the press release. "There are benefits to one's health from supplements, but also risks, so I encourage anyone who is taking a supplement or thinking of taking one to discuss it with your health care provider first."

Less than half of Americans who use supplements (47%) said they spoke with a health care provider before use, despite national guidelines that strongly recommend doing so. Further, 46% of Americans currently taking prescription medications said they have not talked to their health care provider about the possible interactions that supplements could have with their prescriptions.

There were various barriers analyzed in terms of discussing supplements with a health care provider, including:

  • Thirty five percent of all Americans claim they do not think their health care provider is interested in whether they are taking supplements.
  • Approximately 32% of Americans do not think their health care provider knows enough about supplements to advise them properly.

Other findings showed differences that are based on race and ethnicity, such as:

  1. Only 86% of non-Hispanic Americans said they would be comfortable sharing which supplements they take with their health care provider compared to 67% of Hispanics and 75% of Blacks.
  2. More than 1 in 3 Hispanic adults said they worry that their health care provider will make preconceived judgements based on the supplements they take, whereas 46% said they do not think their health care provider is interested versus 31% of non-Hispanic adults.

The survey was conducted online among 2053 US adults ages 18 years and older, including 1531 who are currently taking supplements. The participants were surveyed from June 15-17, 2021.

REFERENCE

Three in ten Americans increased supplement use since onset of pandemic. EurekAlert! July 21, 2021. Accessed July 21, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-07/trg-tit072021.php