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Study Reveals Supplement Use By Country

Update Date: Mar 18, 2014 06:02 PM EDT

Like many things, trends in food supplements vary by country, according to a new study.

Researchers found that plant food supplements are most popular across Europe, with people using them to complement their diets to stay healthy.

Researchers said supplements are taken in many different forms, including in tea, juice or by tablet. However, the most common dose forms were capsules and pills.

After analyzing data from six European countries and gathering information from 2,359 adult consumers of plant food supplements in Finland, Germany, Italy, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom, researchers found that people in Italy and Span were most likely to use a variety of plant food supplements.

The findings also reveal that people in the United Kingdom were least likely to use a variety of supplements. The study found that the number of different products used by UK consumers were half that of consumers in other countries.

The study also found that evening primrose was by far the most frequently used botanical ingredient by people in the UK, followed by ginseng and St. John's Wort.

The study also revealed that 22.2 percent of participants said that they've experienced a "flare up or worsening of a condition" when using plant food supplements.

"The popularity of food supplements is on the rise in Europe, but currently, there is a lack of data on the use of these products. The marketing of these supplements depends on national legislation, which differs widely across European Member States," said study author Monique Raats of the University of Surrey said in a news release.

"Our research will be useful in informing authorities and food businesses of the popularity of specific products in their country, so that they can make more useful judgments on legislation and marketing. It will also help to ensure that the appropriate guidance and policies can be put in place for products that are being widely used," said Raats.

"The survey was carried out using the same methodology in the six countries. We now know that in these countries a wide variety of plant food supplements are consumed. 83.7% of respondents consume only one product, and 51.5% of products usually contain a single botanical ingredient," researcher Alicia García-Álvarez, of the Fundación para la Investigación Nutricional, said in a news release.

The findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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