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Headline News

Harris Poll Shows Widespread Public Ignorance Of Supplement Regulation
Rochester NY, 23 December 2002

Harris Interactive® Health Care News recently conducted a nationwide survey, "Anti-Aging Medicine, Vitamins, Minerals and Food Supplements," for the International Longevity Center.

The survey was based on 1,010 telephone interviews with a nationwide cross section of adults surveyed in October 2002.

Dr. Robert Butler, president and CEO of the International Longevity Center, comments, "It is alarming that so many people believe that the government regulates the labeling and claims made for vitamins, minerals and food supplements when it does not do so."

Beliefs About Government Regulation, Labeling, And Safety

Most people are misinformed about the extent of government regulation of vitamins, minerals and food supplements. They believe that supplements must be approved by a government agency such as the FDA, that the manufacturers are not allowed to make claims for their safety and effectiveness unless there is solid scientific evidence to support them, and that they are required to include warnings about potential side effects or danger. However, relatively few people believe that because supplements are natural substances, they are safe.

There are very big differences between the beliefs of people with more and less education. The more educated people are, the less likely they are to be misinformed about the extent of government regulation and labeling. However, substantial minorities even of those with postgraduate education are still misinformed.

TABLE 1. Beliefs About Vitamins, Minerals And Food Supplements: "I will read you some statements about vitamins, minerals and other food supplements which are available in supermarkets, pharmacies and health food stores. Please say, for each one, if you think it is true or false."
  Education
Percentage saying statement is true Total HS or less Some college College grad Post grad
The government requires that their labels include warnings about potential side effects or dangers. 68% 77% 64% 56% 46%
They must be approved by a government agency like the Food & Drug Administration (which approves pharmaceutical products) before they can be sold to the public. 59% 70% 57% 41% 31%
Manufacturers of these products are not allowed to make claims for their safety or effectiveness unless there is solid scientific evidence to support them. 55% 60% 56% 47% 39%
Because these are natural substances, they are safe. 13% 17% 13% 10% 4%

Awareness of and Attitudes Toward Anti-Aging Medicine

Just over half (55%) of the public says they have seen, heard or read something about the "anti-aging medicine." However, the overwhelming majority (90%) does not believe that taking medication, vitamin, mineral and food supplements can prevent people who are generally healthy from growing old. Nevertheless, the seven percent (7%) who do believe this represents some 15 million people who are potential victims of the claims of anti-aging medicine.

TABLE 2. Seen, Heard, Read About "Anti-Aging Medicine": "Have you seen, heard or read anything about what is called "anti-aging medicine"?
  Education
  Total HS or less Some college College grad Post grad
Have seen, heard or read 55% 49% 56% 67% 68%
Have not seen, heard or read 44% 51% 43% 32% 30%
Not sure * * 1% * 2%

 

TABLE 3. Will Medications, Vitamins, Minerals And Food Supplements Prevent People From Growing Old? "Do you think that taking medications, vitamins, minerals or food supplements will prevent people, who are generally healthy, from growing old?"
  Total  
Yes, will prevent 7%
Will not prevent 90%
Not sure 2%

 

TABLE 4. Can aging be stopped? "Some health advocates say that the aging process can be stopped. Do you believe this is true or false?"
  Total  
True 5%
False 94%
Not sure 1%

 

TABLE 5. Tend To Believe Claims About Anti-Aging Medicines On TV: "Do you generally tend to believe or not believe the claims about anti-aging medicines that are often made in paid programming and advertisements on television?"
  Total  
Believe 4%
Not believe 94%
Not sure 2%

Behaviors That May Help To Keep People From Growing Old

Table 6 provides a detailed look at the beliefs of the public concerning how various behaviors affect the aging process. In general, most people are rather well informed. Substantial majorities believe that regular exercise, not smoking, eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, not being overweight and having close relationships with friends and family members help people "a lot" from growing old.

TABLE 6. How Much Various Behaviors Help People From Growing Old: "How much do you think each of the following help people who are generally healthy from growing old—a lot, some, not much or not at all?"
A Lot Some Not much Not at all Not sure
Regular exercise 75% 17% 1% 6% *
Not smoking 73% 11% 2% 11% 1%
Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables 68% 24% 1% 6% *
Not being overweight 66% 19% 3% 11% 1%
Having close relationships with friends and family members 64% 24% 2% 9% 1%
Eating a low fat diet 49% 35% 6% 8% 1%
Vitamin supplements 23% 55% 10% 11% 1%
Mineral supplements 13% 53% 14% 15% 5%
Herbs and herbal products 12% 46% 18% 20% 4%
Hormone or Estrogen Replacement Therapy or HRT for women 10% 43% 14% 19% 13%
Drinking alcohol in moderation 11% 31% 19% 38% 1%
Hormonal therapies such as Growth, Testosterone, or DHEA 5% 30% 21% 28% 16%

Consumption Of Vitamins, Minerals And Food Supplements

Seven out of every ten adults (69%) take some vitamins, minerals or food supplement products. The median number of vitamins, minerals or food supplements taken every month is 30 (i.e., one per day). The older people are, the more likely they are to take some vitamins, mineral or food supplement. Women are slightly more likely than men to take them. While more educated people are more skeptical of the claims made about these products (Table 1) they are slightly more likely to consume them than are people with less education.

TABLE 7. Ever Take Vitamins, Minerals And Food Supplements: "Do you ever take any vitamins, minerals or food supplements?"
Education
Total HS or less Some college College grad Post grad
Yes, take vitamins, minerals or food supplements 69% 65% 74% 72% 78%
No, do not 30% 35% 25% 28% 22%
Not sure * * *
Median number of pills, vitamins, etc. taken in last 30 days 30% 32% 29% 33% 34%
Note: an asterisk (*) indicates response less than 0.5% and a dash equals zero (0).

Methodology

This survey was conducted by telephone within the United States between October 15 and 21, 2002 among a nationwide cross section of 1,010 adults (ages 18+). Figures for age, sex, race, education, number of adults and number of voice/telephone lines in the household were weighted where necessary to align them with their actual proportions in the population.

In theory, with a probability sample of this size, one can say with 95 percent certainty that the results have a statistical precision of plus or minus 3 percentage points of what they would be if the entire adult population had been polled with complete accuracy. Unfortunately, there are several other possible sources of error in all polls or surveys that are probably more serious than theoretical calculations of sampling error. They include refusals to be interviewed (non-response), question wording and question order, interviewer bias, weighting by demographic control data and screening (e.g., for likely voters). It is impossible to quantify the errors that may result from these factors.

About Harris Interactive®

Harris Interactive (www.harrisinteractive.com) is a worldwide market research and consulting firm best known for The Harris Poll®, and for pioneering the Internet method to conduct scientifically accurate market research. Headquartered in Rochester NY, USA, Harris Interactive combines proprietary methodologies and technology with expertise in predictive, custom and strategic research. The Company conducts international research through wholly owned subsidiaries—London-based HI Europe and Tokyo-based Harris Interactive Japan—as well as through the Harris Interactive Global Network of local market- and opinion-research firms, and various U.S. offices.

Source

Harris Interactive (see also www.harrisinteractive.com/news/newsletters_healthcare.asp).end-of-story

 

 

 

   
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