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Dietary Supplements Can Save Billions In Health Care

Lewin Group Findings Show Cost Savings, Health Benefits for Five Selected Dietary Supplements: Calcium, Folic Acid, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Glucosamine and Saw Palmetto

Washington, DC – September 22, 2004 – A study released today 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:

§ Calcium: The estimate of the five-year (2005-2009) net savings in hospital, nursing facility, and physician expenditures resulting from a reduction in the occurrence of hip fractures among those over age 65, through daily intake of 1200 mg of calcium with vitamin D is $13.9 billion.  Approximately 734,000 hip fractures could be avoided over the five year period.

§ Folic Acid: If just 10.5 million women of childbearing age began taking 400 mcg of folic acid daily, approximately 600 fewer babies would be born with neural tube defects per year, saving as much as $321,853,000 as a result.  Taking into account the very low cost of the supplement, $1.3 billion in lifetime medical costs could potentially be saved over the next five years.

§ Omega-3 Fatty Acids:  Recent studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease (CVD), and Lewin’s review found consistent evidence that omega-3 fatty acids help reduce deaths from CVD.  The research literature contains many promising studies concerning the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for a wide number of chronic conditions (e.g., depression, renal disease, rheumatoid arthritis and asthma).  Additional research is warranted to verify these preliminary suggestions.

§ Glucosamine: Glucosamine has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and is believed to repair and maintain cartilage. Recently the use of complementary and alternative therapies in the treatment of osteoarthritis has become more widespread, and particular interest has focused on glucosamine.

§ Saw Palmetto:  Preliminary findings on the effectiveness of saw palmetto for alleviating the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) indicate that use of the herb yields slight to moderate improvement in symptoms for men with this chronic urinary syndrome.

“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:

§ Paul Coates, Director, Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health

§ Al Dobson, Ph.D., Senior Vice President, The Lewin Group

§ Jeff Blumberg, Ph.D., Professor, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and Associate Director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University

§ Barbara Levine, Ph.D., Associate Clinical Professor of Nutrition in Medicine and Director of the Nutrition Information Center at Weill Medical College of Cornell University

§ Elliott Balbert, Chief Executive Officer, Natrol and President, DSEA

§ Marilu Henner, actress and author

“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.”

For more information about the study, visit www.supplementinfo.org.


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.

For more information, or to speak with the spokespersons outlined above, please contact:

Craig Brownstein – (202) 326-1799 / [email protected]
Beth Mallard – (202) 312-1084 / [email protected]
Deb Knowles – (941) 349-9044 / [email protected]


Source: DaVanzo, J. et al, “Improving Public Health, Reducing Health Care Costs: An Evidence-Based Study of Five Dietary Supplements,” September 22, 2004.

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7 thoughts on “Dietary Supplements Can Save Billions In Health Care

  • C Dickers

    Calcium supplementation is almost useless, as
    1. it needs to be calcium citrate, or chelated collagen calcium for even minimal aborption.
    2.littlecalcium is absorbed unless there is sufficient D3, magnesium, K2(MK4&7) with traces of boron among other minerals.
    3. 80% of americans esp those living above the sun belt, are severely deficient in D3, which in and of itself in sufficient blood levels (usually requiring 3-10k IUs daily of supplementation), will prevent bone fractures, many cancers, diabetes and a host of other chronic illnesses in at least 60% of all people.
    4. K2 in the MK4&MK7 forms will fix blood calcium (pulled from your bones by the liver during animal protein metabolism) back into your bones, preventing the calcium from depositing into your heart and arteries, “calcifying” them with the resulting atherosclerosis. It also normalizes the clotting factor in your blood, (low dose ~45mcg) making it possible to maintain INR levels within the very narrow therapuetic range required when treating with Coumadin, wafaryin (sp?) and/or Heparin. K2 is used in Japan to prevent and/or treat osteoporosis, because our drugs such as Fosamax, Boniva etc are not as effective as K2 at building bone and actually our drugs cause bone loss above midchest level, especially the neck and jaw. I am a prime example of this problem.
    D3 supplementation may, in and of itself, cut medical costs in excess of 1 trillion over the next 5 years, by preventing or reversing diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and many cancers. Diabetes alone accounts for 60% of our “health care” costs. It is cheap, effective and well tolerated (only very rarely resulting in calcium loss, reversible by skipping a few doses when intake is high because blood levels are dangerously low – below 32)
    But of course, allopathic medicine and drugs is big business and if people took charge of their own health, ate right, took the vital supplements, exercised (all items doctors cannot recommend instead of drugs without violating AMA, state licensing board, drug company, insurance “best practices” standards and risking losing their licenses) our drug and medical and insurance economy would suffer and since they are the biggest contributors and lobbyists to Congressional elections and what legislation looks like, that is why we have the lack of rationality in the current “health care reform” legislation.

    • Julie L Larson

      Again, let’s don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater….if one took calcium with vit c (a very well accepted vitamin) and vit D, (becoming more accepted,) it would work in our bodies better. Many people are convinced they feel better with a multivite/min. How about some info on how this might help the bones and protect the arteries.
      Yes, we know more of some of these things would be better, and getting some of that more would be great if the food was grown right and if our intestines were working right, etc.
      When you are going against the grain (the medical profession/or the tecnicians union…however you look at it) it is best to go carefully and get the best result you can with the least amt of fuss. Ask a carpenter if they rip across many boards, and discard until they get a good looking cut. No they determine a plan that will most likely work…..maybe sometimes it doesn’t matter what something looks like, so don’t worry about it, or if it does matter a lot, maybe a simple piece of tape and a slow hand might be the best approach. You don’t take it to congress and demand they invent a machine to help you cut because your wife or husband wants it “absolutely perfect.”

  • Bill

    Saw Palmetto Is Garbage -Roger Mason
    Saw palmetto is useless. For years now we’ve been explaining why saw palmetto, Pygeum afri-canum, nettles, and similar herbs do not work, have no therapeutic effect, do not help prostate health in any way, and are mere promotional scams. Yet, men keep buying countless millions of dollars worth of saw palmetto and other such worthless products every year. Nearly all prostate supplements contain saw palmetto. This is why Beta Prostate® is the best selling prostate sup-plement in the world.
    Almost every chain drug store, natural food store, vitamin catalog, and Internet health site sells a saw palmetto product. No matter where you go you see saw palmetto, Pygeum africanum and other herbal prostate products sold. All of them are equally worthless. In my book The Natural Prostate Cure it is explained why they have no value at all- there’s nothing in them. The active ingredient is the beta-sitosterol complex. This includes beta-sitosterol, campesterol, stigmasterol, and brassicasterol. In the trade all these are simply called “beta-sitosterol” or even “phytosterols”, which means sterols from plants. These mixed plant sterols are natural alcohols by the way.
    Beta-sitosterol is literally three thousand time stronger than saw palmetto powder. This means you would have to eat three thousand capsules of saw palmetto powder to get one single capsule of beta-sitosterol. Scientific fact. What about the extracts, one might ask? The very, very best saw palmetto extracts are only ten to one extractions, so you would still need to eat 300 capsules of saw palmetto extract every day. Notice what they say on the extract bottles, “contains 85% fatty acids and sterols”. This means you get 99% fatty acids and maybe 1% sterols- if you’re lucky.

  • deenie

    Vitamin D3 has to be at the top of the list of most important vitamins. And it has to be in more than token amounts, at least 4,000IU/day. In reality though, unless GM foods are banned, all bets are off. The FDA is as evil as Monsanto in allowing this extermination “food” to be foisted on us and the world. As it spreads through contamination (coexistence policy) we will all be forced to eat it and suffer the severe consequences. Labeling will be meaningless as most food plants will become GM. There’s a secret facility of Monsanto’s near Boquete, Panama, where all the common foods are being modified. Monsanto and its enablers are out to keep Agenda 21 on schedule.

    • ALL of you know far to well the FDA and EPA are not for the peoples best interests and never have been. It is the biggest lie ever told or close. There are plenty more. The word is out how Rockefeller and hi cronies have ruined this nation, You all pretend all is well. We know that’s just not true. The truth is out and even Bill Gates and Microsoft are on the chopping block now. The news has been spreading for years and now the numbers of volunteers to help are to.
      We urge you to step up and stop this insane lie the world is not big enough for us all. The greedy have been poisoning us with Chemtrails and GMO now agent orange on our crops to kill them like you did in Vietnam to kill them by starvation, for years. Monostanos’ has been in the news as the most destructive way to bring the USA down to poverty and third world nation status.
      This must stop, Why would money be so much more important than a life is beyond my comprehension.
      We know you have problems and have been on drugs and so much more in the demise of this world.

  • M. Rebecca Duncan

    I use Silymarin (Milk Thistle) to protect and improve my liver’s health. My doctor has advised me to take D3 daily, along with calcium supplements to protect my bones. These ae supplements I cannot do without. It would certainly hurt my health and well being if the FDA makes attempts to rgulate their production, resulting in taking them off the market.

    • Clinton Bashore

      The Calcium advice for prevention of osteoporosis is only part of the story. Most diets contain adequate Calcium. The inadequate nutrient is usually Magnesium and without it the Calcium is not assimilated properly and can actually make bones brittle. If bone health is a concern, pH should be considered also since calcium is removed from the bones to lessen a low pH condition.

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