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March 15, 2011

Dietary supplement use common among specialists

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Results of a survey reported on March 3, 2011 in Nutrition Journal reveal that the use of nutritional supplements is common among specialist physicians, and that they frequently recommend them to their patients.

The Healthcare Professionals Impact Study surveyed 300 cardiologists, 300 dermatologists and 300 orthopedic surgeons concerning the type of supplements used and recommended. Participants were screened to ensure that none of them were affiliated with a pharmaceutical or dietary supplement company or had other conflicts of interest. Fifty-seven percent of cardiologists, 75 percent of dermatologists and 73 percent of orthopedists reported personal use, and supplements were recommended to patients by 72, 66 and 91 percent of these specialists, respectively. Only 25 percent of cardiologists, 17% of dermatologists, and 16% of orthopedists had never used nutritional supplements.

Half of the physicians on average reported using multivitamins, with dermatologists leading the group. Omega-3 and fish oil supplements and botanicals including green tea were also commonly used. Reasons for personal use of supplements included heart, bone, joint and overall health. Sixteen percent of dermatologists cited benefits to skin, hair and nails. Reasons given for recommending supplements to patients were dependent upon the physician's specialty, including the recommendation of cholesterol-reducing supplements by cardiologists and bone-building nutrients by orthopedists.

The study contributes to previous findings which determined that physicians and nurses engaged in regular use of supplements in a manner similar to that of the general public and that the majority recommended them to their patients. "The HCP Impact Study shows that physician specialists are very likely to use dietary supplements (57 to 75%) and also shows that most of them may recommend dietary supplements to their patients (66 to 91%)," the authors conclude. "Most physicians in this survey indicated that they had not received any formal education or training on the subject of dietary supplements and expressed an interest in Continuing Education regarding these products. There is a need for expanded medical education regarding the general topic of nutrition as well as the more specific topic of dietary supplements."

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Health Concern Life Extension Highlight

Nail health

Nails are important for many reasons, including aesthetic appeal. They can also serve as important barometers offering clues to a person’s overall health. Indeed, conditions as seemingly benign as increased nail thickness, horizontal white lines in the nails, or nail concavity (spooning) may be an indication of a variety of problems, ranging from anemia to endocarditis to connective tissue disorders (Fawcett RS et al 2004). Common nail complaints include brittle, dry nails and infection with a variety of pathogens.

Natural remedies for nail treatment face the same obstacles as prescription agents: it is difficult to deliver healing agents to the site of the infection. However, a few nutrients stand out for their ability to support strong, healthy nails.

Silicon is an essential trace mineral that is vital to the health of bone and skin. It helps facilitate the formation of collagen, which is necessary for the strength and healthy development of epithelial and skeletal connective tissue. In a recent study, silicon was examined for its ability to improve skin and nail health in women who had sun-damaged skin. Chronic exposure to sunlight has been shown to damage connective tissue, which causes loss of elasticity in skin. In this randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, women were given 10 mg daily of either a bioavailable silicon or placebo. Measurements of skin and nail health were taken throughout the study. At the end of 20 weeks, the women taking silicon had decreased skin roughness and less-brittle nails and hair, showing that silicon had a significantly positive effect on nails, skin, and hair (Barel A et al 2005). This study used a stabilized orthosilicic acid, which is the form of silicon with the greatest bioavailability.

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