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Although many consumers recognize the health benefits of vitamin D and omega-3s, actual usage of the supplements may not match public awareness.
Despite high awareness among consumers of the importance of omega-3s and vitamin D as part of a healthy lifestyle, a new survey suggests a majority of consumers polled are not actually getting enough of these key supplements in their diets.
The international survey, commissioned by the Global Nutrition and Health Alliance (GNHA; New York), found that 81% of Americans recognize the importance of omega-3s to their health, but only 45% regularly take an omega-3 supplement. When it comes to vitamin D, awareness of its health benefits is even higher at 89%, with 62% of Americans taking Vitamin D supplements.
Although this discrepancy between awareness and usage might seem alarming, Suzanne Steinbaum, MD, cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital (New York) and cofounder of GNHA, reads the survey results as “absolutely” a sign of progress.
“I think it’s a great sign,” says Steinbaum. “What we’re starting to see is that people are starting to show awareness.” Although this is the first time this survey has been conducted, Steinbaum believes vitamin awareness has grown significantly in the last decade. Actual usage still lags behind, but Steinbaum sees a growth in awareness as a “first step” toward more consumers adding omega-3 and vitamin D supplements to their diets.
The survey was conducted by online questionnaire in December 2014, with just over 1000 consumers each from the United States, Germany, and the United Kingdom participating. In terms of both awareness and usage, American consumers outpaced their overseas counterparts. That difference was especially clear in omega-3 usage, with 45% of Americans supplementing their diet with the nutrient, compared to 29% of Britons and 24% of Germans taking omega-3 supplements.
“I think in America we have a little bit of an advantage,” says Steinbaum. She attributes the higher vitamin awareness in the U.S. to a widespread acceptance of supplementation that is lacking in many other countries.
To keep both awareness and vitamin usage on the rise, Steinbaum advises everyone from practitioners to manufacturers to educators to spread the message that vitamin D and omega-3s are a crucial part of a healthy diet. As awareness continues to rise, Steinbaum hopes to see usage following closely behind.
For another look at supplement consumer habits, check out the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s annual Consumer Survey on Dietary Supplements.
Nutritional Outlook magazine
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