A telephone survey was conducted to determine dietitians' views on nutraceuticals and functional foods.
Using systematic sampling with a random start, 238 names were drawn from the Dietitians of Canada membership. A survey instrument containing mostly open-ended questions and two pages of definitions was pretested and revised. Accurate description was used to analyze and summarize the data with a minimum of interpretation.
Of 180 dietitians contacted, 151 (84%) completed interviews. The majority (n=91, 60%) of respondents thought health claims should be permitted on foods, but only with adequate scientific support for claims and government regulation. Participants overwhelmingly (n=122, 81%) felt that dietitians were the most appropriate professionals to recommend functional foods, but held mixed views of the appropriateness of having dietitians recommend nutraceuticals. However, according to a rating scale of 0 to 10, respondents across all areas of practice believed that it is extremely important for dietitians to become knowledgeable about nutraceuticals (mean +/- standard deviation [SD] = 9.0 +/- 1.2) and functional foods (mean +/- SD = 9.5 +/- 0.9).
Dietitians recommended strict legislation and close monitoring by government; unbiased scientific studies with consensus that the findings support health claims; partnerships with other health professionals, especially pharmacists; and opportunities to gain further knowledge.