Dietary Supplement Advice: Pharmacist Vs. Health Food Store?

pharmacist advice

For those looking to get advice about dietary supplements, who would you predict provides more accurate information about dietary and nutritional supplements–your pharmacist or employees at health food stores?

To be honest and in the interest of full disclosure, I have personal friends who’re pharmacists, so my prediction would be somewhat biased.

A recent Canadian study (Temple et al, 2009) sent undergraduate students to 192 health food stores and 52 pharmacies across Canada to ask questions about dietary supplements.

Study Results:

  • 88% of the time questions were asked at health food stores, the information was either unscientific 6% or poorly supported by the literature 82%.
  • In contrast, this occurred only 27% of the time at pharmacies.

Study Conclusions:

“The vast majority of information provided in HFS in response to questions has little scientific support. Pharmacies are a far more reliable source of information, although they still have significant scope for improvement.”

Well, the results of this study are not terribly surprising, are they?  Pharmacists have far more education and training than employees that work at health food stores. As well, their training involves learning about Evidence Based Medicine EBM in contrast to employees at health food stores who may have more of an alternative medicine background.

It would be a massive understatement to note that pharmacists have far more training about medication than they do about dietary supplements.  This study does highlight the need for more training for pharmacists in this area.

Who do you turn to for information about vitamins, dietary supplements, and herbal preparations?  If you have any supplement related questions, feel free to ask me:  supplement advice.



  1. Temple NJ, Eley D, Nowrouzi B.  Advice on dietary supplements: a comparison of health food stores and pharmacies in Canada.  J Am Coll Nutr. 2009 Dec;28(6):674-7.

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