Doctors need to know the full picture
Every morning, 64-year-old Linda, who lives in Los Angeles, spends five minutes preparing and taking a slew of supplements. She’s got vitamin C to ward off colds, a B complex for energy, calcium, a multi, and she’s just added a collagen powder as her hairdresser insists it’s the best thing ever to deal with facial wrinkles. Sound familiar? Americans spend an average of $368 a year on over-the-counter supplements, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. But that’s the average, and not everyone takes them (it’s about 75 percent of adults in the U.S.), which means that someone who does take supplements likely spends more. How many of us vitamin poppers are dutifully reporting what we take to our doctors? Research suggests, not enough.
According to a study published by De Gruyter, patients are unwilling to, or forget to, mention OTC drugs and dietary supplements when they are interacting with lab staff and doctors. The study was conducted via a survey of patients across 18 European countries, where supplements are a $32 billion a year business. The study showed that the patients were not aware of the effects their supplements could have on the test results, nor did they think it was necessary to mention what they were taking to their health-care provider. The most commonly “forgotten” were multivitamins, cranberry and aspirin, which, the study notes, can cause changes in blood-test results and lead to a possible wrong diagnosis. Women, especially middle age women, are the most likely to be taking these supplements.
“We hope that our survey helps to raise awareness about this need to educate patients about the potential effect of OTC drugs and dietary supplements on lab test results, and we would encourage clinicians and lab staff to engage more with their patients and ask them direct questions about the use of various self-prescribed products,” wrote the study’s corresponding author, professor Ana-Maria Simundic of the Sveti Duh Clinical Hospital in Zagreb, Croatia.
Next time you head in for a medical appointment, don’t be shy: Bring a list of whatever supplements you’re taking—even if it’s long.
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