Over 75% of Spanish GPs prescribe synbiotics & omega-3 oils to kids, study says

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

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Related tags: doctor, Children, omega-3, synbiotics

Research looking into the use of dietary supplements among Spanish paediatricians finds over 75% prescribe synbiotics, omega-3 oils and others to their patients.

Questioning 433 paediatricians, the research team finds synbiotics used by 92% of paediatricians, immune stimulants by 80.4%, and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) by 75.1%.

Further findings identify synbiotics used in combination with antibiotics (92.6%) and for gastrointestinal disorders (91.2%).

Immune stimulants are prescribed to enhance defences and cold prevention (87.1%), and omega-3 PUFAs to improve symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) (84.8%) and concentration (80.1%).

 “The results show that the use of dietary supplements to improve different conditions, particularly minor disorders, is a widespread clinical practice among Spanish paediatricians,”​ say the research team from the department of scientific communication, Ordesa Laboratories, Barcelona, Spain.

“Administration regimens for the three types of supplements, synbiotics, immune stimulants, and omega-3 PUFAs, were consistent with guideline recommendations.”

AFEPADI reaction

Backing the findings are Spain’s Association of Dietary and Food Supplement Companies (AFEPADI), which believes scientific evidence on the health benefits of food supplements is persuading the medical world to start including them in combination with traditional pharmacological prescription.

“Food supplements offer a safe, effective and profitable means to promote good health among all population groups,” ​they say.

“The potential of dietary supplements in reducing the cost of health through the prevention of certain diseases is an issue that should not be overlooked.

“Authorities from all countries should keep in mind the prevention policies that take into account their consumption.”

The team chose a cross-sectional survey study to gather information on the use of dietary supplements by Spanish paediatricians.

The paediatricians filled out a study questionnaire providing data on a total of 4304 patients in which they prescribed synbiotics, immune stimulants, and omega-3 PUFAs.

Further results revealed confidence and previous experience with the product (51.6%), its composition and indications (43.1%) and tolerability (39.9%) were main factors involved in the prescribing decision.

Children treated with omega-3 supplements were significantly older (mean age 7.6 years) than those treated with synbiotics (3.9 years) or immune stimulants (3.4 (2.8) years).

Short duration of treatment (less than 1 month) was significantly more common in the synbiotics group (90.5%), whereas longer duration of treatment (more than 3 months) was more frequent in the omega-3 group (79.1%).

In the immune stimulants group, 60.4% of patients were treated for a period between 1 and 3 months.

Spanish pharma market

“The large percentage of users (more than 75%), particularly probiotics/prebiotics/synbiotics, immune stimulants, and omega-3 fatty acids, is consistent with increase in the use of dietary supplements in the last decades reported in the literature,”​ the team highlight.

They also point out recent observations seen in the Spanish pharmaceutical market as well as other European markets, of an increase in homeopathic preparations specially prepared for children.

“These are supported by their safety and excellent tolerance, and in most cases focused to alleviate minor complaints, such as infant colic, discomfort associated with teething or natural defence stimulation, mostly used since the first months of life,”​ the team say.

Despite the study limitations mentioned by the research team, they point out that no previous studies have evaluated the use of dietary supplements among Spanish paediatricians, with their findings a useful starting point for further research.

Source: Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism

Published online: doi.org/10.1155/2019/5819305

Use of Dietary Supplements among Spanish Paediatricians in Daily Practice: A Cross-Sectional Survey Study.”

Authors: Ignacio Güemes Heras et al.

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