Journal of Community Health

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 22–30 | Cite as

Patients’ Understanding of the Regulation of Dietary Supplements

  • Bimal H. AsharEmail author
  • Redonda G. Miller
  • Carmen P. Pichard
  • Rachel Levine
  • Scott M. Wright
Original Paper


The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) permits manufacturers to sell products without providing pre-market evidence of safety or efficacy. One fundamental reason for the passage of the DSHEA was to empower consumers to make their own choices, free from governmental restriction. Yet, little is known about the public’s understanding of the supplement regulatory process. We undertook a study to assess patients’ knowledge regarding governmental oversight of product marketing and advertising. A survey of 300 adult patients from the Baltimore Metropolitan area was administered after showing participants an advertisement for a dietary supplement. Patients were asked questions regarding their understanding of federal regulation of the advertised product. A total of 52% of respondents were unaware that the dietary supplement had not been approved by the government while 63% were unaware that the advertisement for that supplement had not been pre-approved. Factors associated with a lack of understanding of the product approval process included lower education level (OR 2.52; 95% CI 1.52–4.19) and non-Caucasian race (OR 1.99; 95% CI 1.17–3.36). Lower education level was also associated with confusion regarding the advertisement approval process (OR 2.60; 95% CI 1.48–4.57). Based on these results, patients seem unclear about the government’s role in the regulation of dietary supplements. Educational efforts should be geared towards clarifying these issues.


Dietary supplements Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act Herbal Food and Drug Administration Federal Trade Commission 



We would like to thank Dr. Loh-shan Leung for his assistance in data gathering. Dr. Wright is an Arnold P. Gold Foundation Associate Professor of Medicine.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bimal H. Ashar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Redonda G. Miller
    • 1
  • Carmen P. Pichard
    • 2
  • Rachel Levine
    • 3
  • Scott M. Wright
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of General Internal MedicineJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Department of Orthopedic SurgeryJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Division of General Internal MedicineJohns Hopkins Bayview Medical CenterBaltimoreUSA

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