Is your doctor talking to you about dietary supplements? UCLA study says probably not.

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Doctors are good at a lot of things, but dishing up advice about dietary supplements doesn’t appear to be one of them. That’s according to a UCLA-led study that suggests that doctors are not talking nearly enough to their patients about over-the-counter vitamins, minerals and herbs. 

So why should you care? After all,  non-prescription dietary supplements  are safe, right?

Well, maybe. But  then again, maybe not. 

Taking vitamins can be harmful to your health in some circumstances.  For instance, they can cause adverse reactions  if they  interfere with other medications you're taking.  And that's why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health both suggest you consult your doctor before taking them.  

For their study, the UCLA researchers analyzed transcripts of audio recordings from nearly 1,477 patient visits to 102 primary care doctors, between the years of 1998 and 2010.  Their analysis of the recordings found that less than one quarter of the visits included discussions about dietary supplements.

The data  were limited in that the researchers did not know how many of the patients actually took supplements or prescription medications that could be adversely affected by those supplements.  

Nevertheless, the researchers say, with nearly half of all Americans using some sort of herb or vitamin, it's important that doctors talk to their patients about the risks, effectiveness and costs of supplements.

The study is published in the journal Patient Education and Counseling.