Dietitians Practice What They Preach

Dietary supplement and multivitamin use high among dietitians and their clients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) They say if you want the best plate in the house, you should order what the chef eats. The same might be said for following the eating and health habits of registered dietitians.

A recent study reveals that the vast majority of dietitians take regular nutritional supplements and engage in a range of the very same healthy habits they counsel their clients to adopt.

"Talk to your doctor before taking any dietary supplements."

Lead author Anne Dickinson, PhD, past president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, and colleagues reported data from the 2009 "Life… supplemented" Healthcare Professionals Impact Study, which included 300 registered dietitians.

The data revealed that 74 percent of dietitians use some form of dietary supplement regularly and 22 percent use them occasionally or seasonally. The overwhelming majority of dietitians - 97 percent - recommend that their clients use supplements.

The supplements could include anything from multivitamins to specific nutrients or minerals. Multivitamins were reported as the most commonly used supplement, taken by 84 percent of the survey respondents at least once within the previous year.

The two next highest supplements used were omega-3 fatty acid or fish oil supplements, which 47 percent of the respondents took, and calcium, which 63 percent took.

In addition, 43 percent took vitamin D supplements while 29 percent took vitamin C and 23 percent took vitamin B. A number of dietitians also reported taking non-vitamin supplements: 24 percent took probiotics, 22 percent took fiber and 18 percent took green tea supplements.

Although 42 percent of the dietitians said they were taking the supplements to fill in gaps in their diets, the two most commonly cited reasons for taking them were bone health, which 58 percent said, and overall health and wellness, stated by 53 percent.

These were also the three most common reasons that dietitians recommended their clients take supplements, as well as - to a slightly lesser extent - reducing cholesterol, improving heart health and digestive health, and to aid with those who are vegetarian or vegan, or on some other similarly restrictive diet.

Nearly all the dietitians reported that they follow a number of healthy routines: 96 percent try to eat a balanced diet, and 92 percent consciously work on managing their stress levels effectively.

Other healthy habits reported by the dietitians included 86 percent who regularly visit their personal healthcare provider, 83 who exercise regularly, 80 percent who maintain a healthy weight, and 72 percent who regularly get sufficient sleep.

Meanwhile, although 24 percent said they often eat or drink a lot of caffeine, only 3 percent smoked or drank a lot of alcohol.

As always, all patients should check with their physician before beginning any dietary supplement regimen to ensure there aren't any medical contraindications or medical risks.

The study appeared online March 14 in the Nutrition Journal. The survey was funded by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and the CRN Foundation. Dickinson is a consultant for the CRN and was previously its vice president and president. Two other authors are employed at Ipsos Public Affairs, which conducted the survey.


Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 2, 2012
Last Updated:
April 3, 2012