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J Br Menopause Soc. 2003 Mar;9(1):32-5.

The use of food supplements among women attending menopause clinics in the West Midlands.

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Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, Devon, UK.



To estimate the extent of use of over the counter food supplements in women attending menopause clinics in the West Midlands.


Questionnaire survey of women attending menopause clinics in Solihull Hospital, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Rugby and Walsgrave Hospitals and Birmingham Women's Hospital.


Type and rate of use of food supplements in hormone replacement therapy (HRT) users and nonusers and perceived benefits.


Three hundred and forty women completed the questionnaire. 95% (n = 326) belonged to the white European ethnic group. The median age was 53 years, with 50% (n = 170) in the 50-59 years age group, and 30 % (n = 95) in the age range 40-49 years. Overall use of over the counter supplements in the clinic was 43% (n = 147), with Oil of Evening Primrose (53%) and vitamins (44%) being the most commonly used preparations. 71% (n = 242) women were users of conventional HRT. Of these, 46% were also using food supplements. The use of food supplements was higher amongst HRT users (46%) as compared to non-HRT users (32%). The use was similar between smokers and non-smokers. The most commonly perceived benefit was a feeling of well-being, 39% (n = 58/147). The proportionate use was highest in social class I and class II (51% and 54% respectively), in keeping with amount of disposable income. Friends (27%), the internet (26%) and magazines (20%) were the most commonly quoted sources of information. 79% (n = 116/147) were spending up to 10 each month on alternative remedies. 10% (n = 14/147) of women were visiting practitioners of alternative remedies.


The use of food supplements is widespread and particularly in those already taking conventional HRT. This study was not designed to test confidence in orthodox medicine, but the prevalence of use of supplements amongst menopausal women attending menopause clinics. The most commonly perceived benefit is a feeling of well-being, but users of food supplements are unsure of any additional benefit when supplements are taken in conjunction with conventional therapy. There is a misapprehension that "herbal" or "natural" equals safe. In addition, the correlation between supplement use and side effects is very seldom made, as these compounds are mistakenly considered almost universally safe, and physicians often fail to enquire about their use in routine history taking.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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