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Over Half of Americans Report Supplement Use—We’ve Come a Long Way

In news that should come as no surprise to Swanson customers, a new government report reveals that more than 50 percent of Americans take at least one dietary supplement. The data, from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), shows a steady increase is supplement use over the last 20 years.

Dietary supplement use in the United States has increased since the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III (1988–1994)

This gives credence to the beliefs that we at Swanson have operated under for over 40 years. Back when my father started the company in 1969, those who took supplements and sought out natural whole foods were a true minority. Today, Swanson Health Products is healthier than ever, Whole Foods is one of the most popular grocery chains in the country, and both supplements and natural/organic foods are among the fastest-growing retail categories.

These trends show no sign of slowing down and it’s hard for those of us who have supported supplement use for years not to turn to the detractors and say “See? We might be right after all!” But that doesn’t mean we don’t still have a long way to go in promoting our cause.

Even as a more than half of Americans use supplements, the medical establishment and the mainstream press continue to deride the practice and the industry itself. The first major news story I found about the new NHANES data dedicated more copy to doctors who cautioned that people should just eat better (Of course we should!) rather than take supplements (Why not do both?), and included the statement: “They [supplements] are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.” I won’t do justice to the article by linking to it here.

That statement—that supplement’s aren’t regulated—infuriates me. The production, sale and marketing of dietary supplements are regulated in many ways by both the FDA and the FTC, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

In fact, there are more regulations in place today than ever before, ensuring that the products we offer are safe, that they contain what we say they contain, and that they’re produced according to government-defined Good Manufacturing Practices. The words we can use (and can’t use) to describe our products are dictated by the government. Even the order in which ingredients appear on a label is government mandated. To say that supplements aren’t regulated isn’t just bad reporting. It’s an outright lie.

But I’m encouraged. Because even as such misinformation continues to dominate in the press, America continues to embrace supplements and natural whole foods in greater numbers. More of us are eating better, exercising more and seeking alternative solutions for wellness. We’re focusing on health maintenance and preventive strategies over corporate health care (some call it “sick care”) and emergency medicine.

Forty-two years after my father founded Swanson Health Products for the minority of Americans who believed in alternative health, the minority is quite close to becoming the majority.

Let’s keep the trend moving in the right direction, shall we? Help me spread the message of natural health and wellness. Share this post with friends, post it on your Facebook wall, email it to family, etc. etc. We have the momentum...but we need to keep it moving!

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