Consumption of plant food supplements in the Netherlands
The use of food supplements containing herbs or other botanical ingredients (plant food supplements, PFS) is on the rise. In some cases, PFS can contain compounds that are toxic and may pose a health risk. To assess the potential health risks, information on the consumption of PFS is required, however, this was lacking for the Netherlands. In the current study, the consumption of PFS was investigated for several subgroups in the Dutch population, including children. Data from the Dutch National Food Consumption Surveys were used to get a first impression on the consumption of PFS. To obtain more detailed information, a specific PFS consumption survey was performed using online questionnaires. First, a screening survey was performed among a representative sample of 75 100 adults and children of the Dutch population, followed by a main survey among 739 selected PFS users in eight different age and gender subgroups. The prevalence of PFS users in the Dutch population was approximately 10% for men, 17% for women and 13% for children. A wide variety of PFS was used, with around 600 different PFS reported, containing 345 different botanicals. The most frequently used botanicals were echinacea (Echinacea purpurea), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon), ginseng (Panax ginseng) and algae (such as species belonging to the genus Spirulina or Chlorella). Because PFS are widely used in the Dutch population, it is important to evaluate the potential risks associated with PFS consumption in the Netherlands, including potential herb-drug interactions. The data collected in this study are of great value to assess these risks.