Consumer demand for health information and health services has rapidly evolved to capture and even propel the movement to online health information seeking. Seventeen percent (52 million) of health information internet users will look for information about memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (Fox Pew Internet & American life project: Online health search. Report. Pew Research Center. http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2006/Online-Health-Search-2006.aspx 2006, Pew Research Center. http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2011/HealthTopics.aspx 2011). We examined the content of the 25 most frequently retrieved websites marketing AD dietary supplements. We found that the majority of websites and their products claimed AD-related benefits, including improvement and enhancement of function, treatment for AD, prevention of AD, maintenance of function, delayed progression of AD, and decreased symptoms. Supplements were described as effective, natural, powerful or strong, dependable and pure or of high quality. Peer reviewed references to proper scientific studies were infrequent on websites. Statements highlighting the risks of dietary supplements were as common as statements mitigating or minimizing these risks. Different strategies were used to promote supplements such as popular appeals and testimonials. Further enforcement of relevant policy is needed and preparation of clinicians to deal with requests of patients and caregivers is indicated.
Palmour N, Vanderbyl BL, Zimmerman E, et al. HEC Forum (2013) 25: 361.