A study released in September 2004 shows that daily use of calcium would prevent 734,000 hip fractures and save $13.9 billion in health care costs over the next five years. Daily use of folic acid by women would prevent 600 cases of neural tube birth defects yearly, saving $1.3 billion in lifetime medical costs over five years.
Omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and saw palmetto supplements showed substantial promise for improving health and quality of life and potentially reducing health care costs.
The study, commissioned by the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance and conducted by The Lewin Group, included a systematic literature review of the most rigorous scientific research available.
Key study findings include:
"Many studies over the years have demonstrated the positive effects of calcium and folic acid. This report reinforces those findings by demonstrating the cost savings that could be achieved by taking these two supplements,” said Allen Dobson, Ph.D., senior vice president at The Lewin Group. “The results on omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and saw palmetto were also extremely encouraging in their ability to offset health problems and costs associated with chronic conditions.”
Noting the implications of the study, the U.S. House Committee on Government Reform's Subcommittee on Human Rights and Wellness held a Congressional hearing on September 22 to review the results. Witnesses included:
"As our country faces an ever-growing crisis in health care, it is important to recognize the role that dietary supplements can play in reducing our burden of disease and the costs to manage it,” said Jeffrey Blumberg, professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
"Many industry experts have long believed that dietary supplements provide consumers with long-term health benefits by reducing the incidence of debilitating health problems, and this study proves it," said Elliott Balbert, chief executive officer of Natrol and president of the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance. "The findings provide evidence to support both the cost savings and quality-of-life benefits of these particular supplements.”
The Lewin Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Quintiles Transnational, is a nationally recognized health care and human services consulting firm in Falls Church , Va. The firm specializes in helping public and private sector clients solve complex problems in healthcare and human services with policy analysis, research and consulting.
The Dietary Supplement Education Alliance is a coalition of industry leaders whose mission is to educate consumers, media and policymakers on the benefits of dietary supplements for optimizing health and prevention of disease, with a focus on their safety, efficacy and regulation. Its membership includes nutritional and dietary supplement suppliers, manufacturers, retailers and publishers.
DaVanzo, J. et al, "Improving Public Health, Reducing Health Care Costs: An Evidence-Based Study of Five Dietary Supplements," September 22, 2004.
FACT SHEET - Improving Public Health, Reducing Health Care Costs: An Evidence-Based Study of Five Dietary Supplements (Wednesday, September 22, 2004)