Atlanta, GA—A survey on complementary health techniques covering over 80,000 Americans has shown that while natural products have maintained a similar level of popularity overall over the course of this decade, preferences within the category are shifting. This data is based off of answers from complementary health questionnaire developed by NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The questionnaire is administered every five years as a part of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), an annual study interviewing Americans about their health- and illness-related experiences. The most recent of these questionnaires was issued in 2012, and was compared with previous results in 2007 and 2002.

According to this survey, non-vitamin and mineral dietary supplements remained the most popular complementary health choice for both children 4-17 and adults. (Vitamin and mineral supplements were not considered complementary health products for the purposes of this survey,) and were not covered. Fish oil was the most popular supplement for both children and adults in 2012, a change from the 2007 results where echinacea was the most popular for children. Overall, adult usage of fish oil, probiotics/prebiotics, and melatonin increased in 2012 from 2007, while glucosamine/chondroitin, echinacea, and garlic declined. In addition to children using fish oil, melatonin use significantly increased in 2012, becoming the second most popular supplement choice for children. Moving outside of supplements, yoga has experienced a surge of interest across all age, racial, and ethnic groups, with approximately 21 million adults practicing yoga, nearly double the amount in 2002 and the single largest increase in the entire survey. Yoga among children also increased by approximately 400,000, as well.

Josephine P. Briggs, M.D., director of NCCIH, believes that these trends, particularly the changes in supplement use, stem from consumers paying increased attention to medical evidence and informing their decisions accordingly. As she explains it, “the use of melatonin, shown in studies to have some benefits for sleep issues, has risen dramatically. Conversely, the use of echinacea has fallen, which may reflect conflicting results from studies on whether it’s helpful for colds.” While NHIS does not assess why any shifts occur, some of them do line up with published research on the efficacy of natural products. The next complementary health questionnaire will be issued as a part of 2017’s NHIS.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, March 2015(online 2/10/15)