Physicians & Dietary Supplements
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | November 4, 2003

Dietary supplements have been praised by patients and doubted by physicians. What hasn't happened is a careful scrutiny of the scientific data on a significant group of dietary supplements by any major physician organization--until now, that is.

Recently, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists issued medical guidelines for using dietary supplements in clinical practice (1). In other words, they didn't simply say they were good or bad--they reviewed the science behind a variety of dietary supplements and gave recommendations about how to use them in clinical practice if the science warranted it. This is a significant step. No, they did not give glowing reviews to every dietary supplement--but that isn't the point. The point is that they made a decision based on the scientific facts after an extensive review process. That's the way it should always be done.

They ranked the studies based on research design, number of subjects, and results, among other criteria. They then assigned each supplement a grade from A to D. The range went from Grade A, recommending the supplement for use as a primary clinical treatment, to Grade D, not recommended.

Here's a few of the dietary supplements that were recommended in clinical practice with Grades of A or B.

  • Omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular health and high triglycerides
  • Glucosamine for osteoarthritis
  • Saw palmetto for benign prostatic hypertrophy
  • Alpha-lipoic acid for neuropathy
They also gave recommendations to physicians about how to talk to patients about dietary supplements, with a variety of scenarios and recommendations for what to say depending on the response of the patient. The most significant part of this section was the word "talk." That's what we always recommend at Better Life Unlimited--that you discuss the use of dietary supplements with your physician. You may or may not agree, but the discussion is the important thing.

Don't assume that your physicians don't know anything about nutrition or dietary supplements. How will you know if you never talk to them about it? It may also be a good idea to take them a copy of this document so they can check out the Guidelines themselves from the reference below. Your physician should be your partner in health and an important ingredient is communication. Make a list of what you take and how much, and start that communication on your next visit.

Reference:

  1. American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists Medical Guidelines for the Clinical Use of Dietary Supplements and Nutraceuticals. Endocr Pract. 2003;9(5):417-470
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