TUESDAY, July 23 (HealthDay News) -- Doctors do a poor job of
providing patients with information about vitamins, minerals, herbs
and other dietary supplements, a new study says.
It's an important issue because so many people take these
products, which carry risks -- including potentially harmful
interactions with prescription drugs -- and some patients take
dietary supplements in place of conventional medicines, the
They analyzed transcripts of audio recordings made during office
visits by nearly 1,500 patients to 102 primary-care doctors between
1998 and 2010. Of those patients, about 350 had discussions about
more than 700 dietary supplements, according to the study, which
was published recently in the journal
Patient Education and Counseling.
"This is the first study to look at the actual content of
conversations about dietary supplements in a primary-care setting,"
study primary investigator Dr. Derjung Tarn, an assistant professor
of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the
University of California, Los Angeles, said in a university news
"The bottom line was that discussions about meaningful topics
such as risks, effectiveness and costs that might inform patient
decisions about taking dietary supplements were sparse," Tarn
The researchers focused on five major topics related to dietary
supplements: the reason for taking them, how to take them,
potential risks, effectiveness and cost or affordability.
On average, fewer than two of the topics were discussed during
the office visits. All five topics were covered during discussions
of only six of the more than 700 supplements. None of the topics
arose for nearly 300 of the supplements patients told their doctors
they were taking.
The researchers did find that discussions about herbal and
related supplements were more thorough than those about vitamins
and minerals. This is important because herbal and related
supplements are more likely to have potentially harmful
interactions with conventional medicines.
Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. National
Institutes of Health suggest that patients consult with their
doctors before starting to take dietary supplements, the
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about