The 14-question survey—“How Do Dietary Supplements Fit into YOUR Clinical Practice?”—was designed to gauge practitioner knowledge about clinical use of dietary supplements, particularly omega-3s. It was sent to physicians, nurses and ancillary healthcare professionals across the U.S.
The 362 respondents represented a wide range of healthcare professionals; more than one-third were conventionally trained primary care MDs and DOs (35%). Medical specialists, nurses, naturopathic physicians, nutrition counselors and chiropractors were also included in the sample. Exactly half of these respondents indicated that their practices are “mixed/integrative,” suggesting that while they may still use conventional drug therapies they are open to other alternatives. Key findings of the survey included:
• Nearly all practitioners (95%) are recommending some supplements as part of their routine practices.
• Willingness to recommend omega-3s is high (88%), with 35% reporting that they “Always” recommend them, and 53% saying they “Frequently” recommend them. Of note, only 2% report never recommending omega-3s.
• While “Heart Health” remains the top reason for which respondents recommend omega-3s (82%), clinicians clearly recognize other health benefits, including: “Inflammation Reduction” (81%); “Cognitive/Mood Effects” (80%); and “Joint Health” (65%).
• “Fatty Acid Composition” is the most important selection criterion (74%) for omega-3s. More specifically, issues such as EPA/DHA ratio and the form of omega-3s (phospholipid vs. triglyceride) matter most to this group. Criteria like “Organic” and “Non-GMO” are also important for 56% and 55% of doctors, respectively. “Sustainable” is important to nearly half (46%).
• Practitioners are not as reactive to “negative” studies as consumers. The majority (68%) said their omega-3 recommendations have not changed at all in the last 6-12 months, during which there were several negative omega-3 studies; 29% said they are recommending omega-3s more often, and only 3% reported recommending them less frequently.
“Omega-3s represent one of the most trusted and widely used categories of supplements among healthcare professionals. Clinicians recommend them for general wellness and prevention, but also use them to manage heart disease, mood disorders and inflammatory conditions,” said Erik Goldman, editor, Holistic Primary Care. “Especially interesting is the finding that almost 30% of clinicians are recommending omega-3s more than they were a year ago.”
This practitioner survey is part of a larger education program titled “How to Speak Krill.” This pilot program is designed to provide practitioners with the tools they need to help patients make educated decisions about krill and omega-3s.
“As consumer interest in supplements continues to grow, practitioners will need to look at shifting from straight conventional mainstream models to more integrative or mixed approaches to help meet their patients’ needs,” said Becky Wright, marketing director, Aker BioMarine Antarctic US. “This survey reflects the significant growth of mainstream practitioner interest in supplements, with a particular emphasis on omega-3s. Our goal is to help doctors become more knowledgeable about all marine omega-3 options, so they can recommend them with confidence.”