NIH Unveils Dietary Supplements Webpage for Health Professionals

AAFP Offers Additional Resources on Dietary Supplementation

March 23, 2017 04:30 pm News Staff

NIH's Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) has created a webpage(ods.od.nih.gov) designed specifically for health care professionals and other stakeholders. Among those the page aims to reach are physicians, nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, dietitians and nutrition educators, as well as public health officers and those who educate and train these individuals.

[Screenshot of new NIH dietary supplements website for health care professionals]

Joyce Merkel, M.S., R.D., scientific and health communications consultant for the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, said via email: "The goal of this new webpage is to provide in one place up-to-date and evidence-based information to help health professionals discuss dietary supplements with their patients, clients, colleagues and students."

ODS Webpage Features Diverse Set of Resources

Visitors to the webpage will find an extensive collection of resources, including links to a fully searchable list of dietary supplement fact sheets(ods.od.nih.gov) aimed at both health professionals and consumers; a comprehensive dictionary of dietary supplement terms(ods.od.nih.gov); a frequently asked questions page(ods.od.nih.gov); and an overview of dietary supplements(ods.od.nih.gov) that addresses their effectiveness, safety and quality. This section breaks down the dietary supplement label, and explains the importance of a physician-patient consult prior to a patient starting use of a supplement, as well as the government's role in regulating dietary supplements.

Additionally, this one-stop shop includes links to the Dietary Supplement Label Database(dsld.nlm.nih.gov) maintained by ODS and the National Library of Medicine; the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program(www.fda.gov) website; U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food composition databases(ndb.nal.usda.gov); and a nutrient recommendations page(ods.od.nih.gov) that offers access to reports and tables from the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), a USDA tool for calculating daily nutrient recommendations, and the FDA's Daily Value tables.

The webpage also connects visitors with other resources on dietary supplements from other federal government agencies -- specifically, the FDA(www.fda.gov), Federal Trade Commission(www.consumer.ftc.gov), National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health(nccih.nih.gov), and the Department of Defense's Operation Supplement Safety(www.opss.org) campaign.

Spanish language versions(ods.od.nih.gov) of much of this information also can be accessed from the health professionals page.

Finally, ODS' new online resource offers family physicians numerous opportunities to connect with the ODS by joining its listserv(ods.od.nih.gov), asking a question(ods.od.nih.gov), reading ODS newsletters(ods.od.nih.gov) and viewing the office's videos(ods.od.nih.gov).

AAFP Offers Dietary Supplement Resources

The Academy offers its own resources to support members as they research dietary supplements, including several clinical recommendations on vitamin supplementation.

These recommendations cover

  • vitamin, mineral and multivitamin supplements for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease and cancer;
  • vitamin D and calcium supplementation for prevention of fractures in men and premenopausal women; and
  • vitamin D and calcium supplementation for prevention of fractures in noninstitutionalized postmenopausal women.

The AAFP's mobile app includes an applet that provides important information about common drug-nutrient interactions, and a nutrient deficiency risk questionnaire(272 KB PDF) can help family physicians start a conversation with patients about making healthy food choices.

In addition, familydoctor.org offers a wide range of patient resources on dietary supplements and other nutritional information, including handouts on

Much of this content was developed with general underwriting support from Nature Made.

Also, in the Jan. 15, 2016, issue of American Family Physician, Norman Marks, M.D., M.H.A., former medical director of the FDA's MedWatch program, wrote an editorial on how family physicians can address concerns about the safety of dietary supplements by working with the FDA.

Referencing the case of a healthy 18-year-old Ohio student who died from acute cardiac arrhythmia after an unintentional overdose of powdered caffeine, Marks said the FDA needs the active support of physicians in identifying and voluntarily reporting suspected serious adverse events or product quality concerns via MedWatch.

"These reports can then trigger the investigation, evaluation and risk-mitigation actions that can avert future patient harm from dietary supplement use," he said.

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