A growing number of consumers are turning to health supplements as an alternative or addition to mainstream medicine. Today’s consumers are savvy and understand the benefits of the ingredients found in health supplements for good health and well-being. While they are apprehensive of nutritional products, they value brands that offer manufacturing credibility and prefer products formulated under doctor supervision.As more consumers place priority on their health, health supplements are fast becoming a popular choice.This focus is reflected in the booming growth of the U.S. dietary supplement market, presently estimated to be valued at $24-25 billion. In spite of prevailing doubts about the integrity of health supplement manufacturers, the rising cost of raw materials and new regulations, the health supplement industry is projected to rise by 4-6% in the next year. By the year 2010 growth in the global nutraceuticals industry is projected to reach $187 billion.According to NMI’s 2007 Health & Wellness Trends Survey, the top health categories for supplements are weight loss, cardiovascular support, digestion, arthritis or joint pain relief, seasonal allergy relief, vision and eye health, and diabetes.”Customers believe in the industry. A recent study found that 34% of consumers looking to lose weight first turn to a dietary supplement as their adjunct in the battle against obesity,” says Douglas S. Kalman, director of nutrition and applied clinical research at Miami Research Associates and chair of the Nutrition in Complementary Care Dietetic Practice Group (NCC-DPG).According to an annual survey conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), Washington, D.C. “Consumers’ use of dietary supplements remained fairly consistent in 2007, with 68% of American adults saying that they take dietary supplements.”Consider these statistics by the Office of Dietary Supplements:* 31.8% of American children use dietary supplements (18 and younger).* 47% of American men use dietary supplements.* 57% of American women use dietary supplements.The most commonly used dietary supplements are multivitamins and minerals (18.3%). A recent study conducted by the NCAAM, shows a list of why people use dietary supplements, the most common reasons are general health, arthritis, memory improvement, to prevent osteoporosis, for energy, recommended by physician, friend, family or through media, for immune health, to prevent colds/influenza, and as sleep aids.Health supplements most commonly purchased are:* 40% vitamins* 29% herbals & botanicals (ginkgo, echinacea, St. John’s Wort, ginseng, garlic)* 10% sports nutrition* 8% minerals* 8% specialty supplements (melatonin, fish oil, amino acids, etc.)(www.snac.ucla.edu)The top supplements used by consumers in 2007, in order of frequency are multivitamins, calcium, vitamin C, fish oil, vitamin E, antioxidants, vitamin B/B complex and omega 3s. (NMI survey).Why are Health Supplements Gaining Credibility?There are more than 20,000 products on the market. Many consumers believe that health supplements can support their bodies to fight disease or improve health. Exactly why are health supplements gaining credibility?One of the reasons is the advances in science and technology. Most credible health supplement manufacturers use strict manufacturing policies combined with a professional team of researchers who develop products based on evidence based scientific research.Through clinical studies and systematic reviews scientist evaluate the health benefits and safety risks of health supplements. This has built consumer confidence.An example of this is omega-3 fatty acid supplementation. There is strong evidence from epidemiologic and clinical trials indicating the consumption of omega-3 fatty acid as being beneficial to people who are at risk of coronary heart disease. The American Heart Association validates this: “Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of – or who have – cardiovascular disease”Consumer interest in health supplements is now reinforced by doctors and healthcare professionals.A report from CRN’s Healthcare Professionals Impact Study states that “more than three-quarters of U.S. physicians (79%) and nurses (82%) recommend dietary supplements to their patients.” As dietary supplements receive more support from clinical trials, there will be a rise in the number of recommendations of health supplements by healthcare professionals to their patients.Another factor which will boost future sales is the recent finalization of U.S. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) rules and requirements for the manufacture of dietary supplements and the new Adverse Event Reporting (AER) law. “The burden of compliance is really key for consumer confidence,” says Daniel Fabricant, vice president of scientific affairs, Natural Products Association (NPA), Washington, D.C. Health supplements are the future in preventive medicine. With DNA diagnostics becoming more common, and the role of nutrition against disease gaining surer footing, the health supplement industry is poised to meet the challenges of the future health industry.