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Dietary supplement use among menopausal women attending a San Francisco health conference

Kam, Ivy W. PharmD; Dennehy, Cathi E. PharmD; Tsourounis, Candy PharmD


Objective This study examined the usage patterns of dietary supplements during menopause, providing information about type, prevalence, and rationale for use.

Methods A survey instrument was distributed to self-identified peri- or postmenopausal women at a San Francisco women's health conference in March 2000.

Results Of the 100 eligible women, 29% used hormone replacement therapy (HRT) alone, 16% used HRT with dietary supplements (Combo group), 32% used dietary supplements alone, and 13% used no product or used supplements excluded in this survey. The most common dietary supplements were soy (29%), ginkgo biloba (16%), and black cohosh (10%). Only 54% of women using dietary supplements reported such usage to their primary care providers. Women using HRT alone reported relief of hot flashes significantly more often than those using dietary supplements alone (63% vs. 30%;p = 0.016). Women using combination therapy reported enhanced improvement in vaginal dryness, libido, and mood compared with those using HRT alone. Perceived quality of life and overall control of menopausal symptoms were highest among women using dietary supplements alone and women using combination therapy, respectively. Satisfaction with menopausal counseling from a primary care provider was significantly greater in women receiving HRT alone (p = 0.02) and combination therapy (p = 0.006) compared with women receiving dietary supplements alone.

Conclusions Dietary supplements were frequently used during menopause. Combined use of dietary supplements and HRT seemed to be associated with enhanced relief of certain menopausal symptoms. Women using dietary supplements alone seemed particularly dissatisfied with the menopausal counseling provided by a primary care provider.

From the Department of Clinical Pharmacy, University of California-San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.

Received February 23, 2001;

revised and accepted May 15, 2001.

Address reprint requests to Ivy Kam, PharmD, Department of Clinical Operations, Kaiser Permanente, 1150 Veterans Boulevard, Redwood City, CA 94063. E-mail:

©2002The North American Menopause Society