Every year, half of all Americans take some kind of pill as insurance against their diets.
But recently, researchers have noticed a surprising trend: Use of some of the most popular supplements is waning, possibly because of recent reports questioning their benefits and raising awareness about risks. In a study by the independent research group ConsumerLab.com, calcium supplementation declined among women, from 58% in 2012 to 46% in 2013 . Vitamin C purchases were off by 4.2%. Even sales of fish oil — once the hottest supplement on the market — dropped, according to the report.
The one category where supplementation is actually growing? Probiotics, or live bacteria that work by “recolonizing the small intestine and crowding out disease-causing bacteria, thereby restoring balance to the intestinal flora,” according to ConsumerLab.com. From 2012 to 2013, use of probiotics rose from 31% to 37% among regular supplement users.
Christopher Mohr, a nutritionist who founded MohrResults.com, a nutrition counseling company in Louisville, can attest to the growing demand. “There has certainly been an increased interest among clients,” he says. “A good number of scientific studies support the inclusion of probiotics in our diet, and these stories get picked up by the media, leading consumers to learn more about them.”
Indeed, some medical research suggests numerous and broad applications for probiotics, such as easing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and stomach distress associated with taking antibiotics. On the other hand, the National Institutes of Health takes a more conservative stance, concluding that “although some probiotic formulations have shown promise in research, strong scientific evidence to support specific uses of probiotics for most conditions is lacking.”
Article from USA Today, March 23, 2014, by Julia Savacool.