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WASHINGTON, DC -- Most consumers use dietary supplements for prevention purposes, according to a new survey by the Nutrition Business Journal.

Patrick Rea, publisher and editorial director of Nutrition Business Journal and vice president of research and data for Club Industry, spoke to congressional staff members Wednesday as part of a Capitol Hill briefing about supplements. The briefing was sponsored by the Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus, in cooperation with the Natural Products Association and the Council for Responsible Nutrition.

“It’s all about prevention,” Rea said. “Prevention is the new mantra among consumers.”

He said that even during tough economic times, consumers turn to dietary supplements as an important part of their immunity and prevention plan.

“Consumers looked at supplements as one way through the recession to help take care of themselves,” he said. “Health is recession resilient, and the sales over time support this fact.”

An aging but influential population is changing the way Americans use and rely on dietary supplements. Dietary supplements are part of a nearly $27 billion industry that has demonstrated steady sales and product growth over time.

“Our numbers show that somewhere between 60 percent and 80 percent of Americans take supplements, and 48 percent of them consider themselves regular users,” Rea said.

Rea also mentioned the growing acceptance of dietary supplements among conventional health practitioners and the growing trend among pharmaceutical companies to develop their own versions of products usually sold as supplements.

“In a study of health care professionals, 72 percent of physicians and 89 percent of nurses are dietary supplement consumers, and 79 percent of physicians and 82 percent of nurses recommend dietary supplements to their patients,” he said.

Rea concluded by disputing the idea that the industry is unregulated.

“The supplement industry is one of the more highly regulated industries,” he said. “Many of the companies say the regulatory challenges they face today are the threat of increased [Food and Drug Administration] and [Federal Trade Commission] regulation over the industry, and the recent GMP [good manufacturing practices] rollout. A lot of the companies are rallying behind the GMP regulations. They want it to be known that they are a GMP-compliant company. And the Dietary Supplement Health Education Act made claims rules clear and has really helped the industry focus and develop.”