Giving Honest Opinion about Dietary Supplements

In the article titled, confidence in the efficacy and safety of dietary supplements among United States active duty army personnel, Lieberman and Carvey (2012) observe that dietary supplements are used by the U.S. army soldiers to enhance their muscle strength and energy. According to a study that was conducted by Monroe (2012), dietary supplements such as green tea, fibre, and calcium supplements are also used for weight-loss purposes. Although the use of dietary supplements is prevalent among the local population there is limited scientific evidence to show that dietary supplements are  effective and safe. This paper argues that when confronted with questions about dietary supplements, physicians are supposed to give their honest opinions.

Physicians should give an honest opinion in regard to the use of dietary supplements. The responsibility is based on the idea of medical humility. Medical humility is central to good doctoring, unpretentious openness, honest self-disclosure, evidence of the arrogance and modulation of self-interest (Coulehan, 2011). The effects of honesty and self-disclosure in medical practice were examined in a study that was conducted by Paine, McCarthy, MacFarlane,Thomas, Ahrens and Leroy (2010). The study had 151 participants and these participants were required to indicate their perceptions on whether physicians should engage in self-disclosure or not (Paine et al., 2010). The participants rated disclosing physicians more highly that the disclosing physician (Paine et al., 2010). The participants also indicated that a relationship with a disclosing doctor was more satisfying than with a non-disclosing physician (Paine et al., 2010).

Based on these findings, it is important for the physicians inform their patients the potential benefits and adverse effects that are associated with dietary supplements. Giving honest opinions is also important in order to protect the patients. Remember, unlike the conventional medicine, dietary supplements do not undergo rigorous testing and screening. In addition, a number of dietary supplements such as ephedrine are associated with serious adverse side effects. Dietary supplements could also be harmful if they are taken in large doses. Consequently, it is only rational for a physician to provide patients with this information in order to protect them from any potential harm.

Lack of knowledge is associated with worse quality of life and worse quality of care. It is the responsibility of the physicians to impart this knowledge to patients. Giving honest opinions is not limited to the use of dietary supplements. Physicians should also provide detailed information and honest opinions to patients about their prognosis and the effects the treatment will have on their illness. A number of studies have been conducted to examine the feelings of patients about honest communication. In such one study, Thomas, Lindsay, Enid, James Robin and Laurel (2011) used a sample of 27 patients. 20  of the participants indicated that knowledge was important in order to allow them to make informed choices (Thomas et al., 2011). This knowledge would also help them to develop management strategies that best concur with their personal goals and preferences (Thomas et al., 2011). Surprisingly, the participants indicated that physicians should divulge all information, whether good or bad (Thomas et al., 2011).

The issue of honest communication is examined by Irvine (2011) in the article, everyone is entitled to a good doctor. In Irvine’s view patients value doctors they can trust (2011). The sense of trust can be sustained by delivering both bad and good news. Irvine (2011) further observed that providing honest opinions decrease anxiety that is associated with ignorance and uncertainty.
In sum, the use of dietary supplements is a controversial issue bearing in mind there is no scientific evidence that support its efficacy in medical practice. When confronted with questions on the use of dietary supplements, physicians should give honest opinions in order to eliminate ignorance and uncertainty. Such an action is likely to positive outcomes including enhanced quality of life and care.

Coulehan, J. (2011). A gentle and humane temper: humility in medicine. Perspectives in Biology and medicine,54(2), 206-16
Irvine, H. (2011). Everyone is entitled to a good doctor. The Medical Journal of Australia, 186 (5), 256-61
Lieberman, H. R. & Carvey, C. E. (2012). Confidence in the efficacy and safety of dietary supplements among United States active duty army personnel. MBC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 12 (1), 182
Manore, M. (2012). Dietary supplements for improving body composition and reducing body weight: where is the evidence? International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 22(2), 139-54
Paine, A. L., McCarthy, V. P., MacFarlane, I. M., Thaomas, B., & Ahrens, M. & Leroy, B. (201). What would you do if you were me? Effects of counsellor self-disclosure versus non-disclosure in a hypothetical genetic counselling session. Journals of Genetic Counselling, 19(6), 570- 584
Thomas, J., Lindsay, D., Enid, V., James, K., Robin, M., & Laurel, L. (2011).. A pilot of decision aids to give truthful prognostic and treatment information to chemotherapy patients with advanced care. The Journal of Supportive Oncology, 9 (2), 76- 86