Among children who used any complementary health approach, 44.2% used it to treat a specific health problem or condition in 2007 and 45.6% in 2012. The percentage of children using nonvitamin, nondietary supplements to treat a specific health condition decreased from 49.4% in 2007 to 35.5% in 2012. For both time periods, complementary health approaches were most often used for back or neck pain, head or chest cold, other musculoskeletal conditions, anxiety or stress, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Even with the popularity of certain products, data on the efficacy of nonvitamin, nondietary supplements is uneven and inconsistent. While research has indicated that fish oil may reduce blood pressure and inflammation, increase brain flow, and provide structural strength for neurons, the mechanisms of actions are unknown. In addition, little is known about the possible benefits or adverse effects of nonvitamin, nonmineral dietary supplements in children.
However, these results may also suggest that consumers are utilizing medical evidence in decision-making regarding supplements, according to Josephine P. Briggs, MD, Director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Dr. Briggs notes that use of echinacea has dropped as studies have yielded conflicting results on its efficacy in preventing colds, while use of melatonin has increased as some studies have indicated it may have some benefits for sleep issues.
As the use of complimentary health approaches continue to increase in popularity, rigorous clinical trials on the safety and efficacy of these products for children and adults are of utmost importance.
- Clarke TC, Black LI, Stussman BJ, et al. Trends in the use of complementary health approaches among adults: United States, 2002–2012. National Health Statistics Reports; No. 79. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2015.
- Black LI, Clarke TC, Barnes PM, et al. Use of complementary health approaches among children aged 4–17 years in the United States: National Health Interview Survey, 2007–2012. National Health Statistics Reports; No. 78. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics, 2015.