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Biological Chemistry

Use Of Natural Products Shifted, Survey Finds

by Andrea Widener
February 16, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 7

Fish oil was the top natural product used by both adults and children in 2012, and its use increased over the previous five years, according to a new survey from NIH’s National Center for Complementary & Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The National Health Interview Survey includes questions about complementary medicine, which it collects every five years. The newest results show that fish oil isn’t the only natural product whose use is on the rise. Probiotics, prebiotics, and melatonin use among adults has also gone up. Not all natural products have had the same fate, however. Use of glucosamine/chondroitin, echinacea, and garlic supplements decreased between 2007 and 2012. Josephine P. Briggs, NCCIH’s director, attributes at least part of the changes in use to research. Some studies have shown melatonin to be beneficial for sleep, and others have shown that echinacea may not be helpful for fighting colds. Briggs says, “This reaffirms why it is important for NIH to study these products and to provide that information to the public.”


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