12 January - 20 June 2016

Botanical supplement use compared in six European countries

26 Mar 14

Prompted by the growing popularity of botanical supplements with consumers across Europe, researchers from the Fundación para la Investigación Nutricional and the University of Surrey conducted a study on their usage in Finland, Germany, Italy, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom. Research covered the popularity of different plant food supplements (PFS) in different countries, and compared different methods of ingesting the botanicals, from capsules and pills to powder sachets and drop dispensing bottles. For the purposes of the study, PFS were defined as "concentrated sources of botanical preparations that have nutritional or physiological effect [and]...are marketed in dose format." Herbal teas, juices and similar products, therefore, were not included.

Participants (approximately 400 per country) were selected so as to make up a representative cross-section of demographics with gender and age group quotas. All had taken PFS in the previous 12 months, and were asked to complete a detailed questionnaire on their usage over that time period, covering the specific product(s) taken, frequency and duration of use.

Overall usage prevalence rate for each country was determined by a pre-screening process to select the eligible ~400 participants per country from an initial cohort of 11783. This figure ranged from 9.6% in Finland to 22.7% in Italy, with a weighted average of 18.8% across the board.

Results of the questionnaire and face-to-face interviews showed significant variation in usage patterns between the countries. It was found, for example, that the numbers of different PFS products used overall per country ranged from 289 and 284 in Italy and Spain respectively, to approximately half that in the UK. Also in the UK was the lowest use of multi-botanical products and a strong preference for single-botanicals - 84.5% of the UK sample used just one single-botanical compared to 20.5% of the Finnish group.

Overall, the most popular PFS were found to be, in descending order: Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo), Oenothera biennis (evening primrose), Cynara scolymus (artichoke), Panax ginseng (ginseng), Aloe vera, Foeniculum vulgare (fennel), Valeriana officinalis (valeriana), Glycine max (soybean), Melissa officinalis (lemon balm), Echinacea purpurea (echinacea) and Vaccinium myrtillus (blueberry), but individual countries varied in preference, perhaps reflecting different legislation surrounding the selling and labelling of such supplements. [Eurekalert]

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