Dietary supplements are used by more than half of adults. Most of these adults use supplements to improve or even to maintain their health. For example, women commonly supplement with calcium to help with bone health. And men may choose supplements that help with heart health or to lower cholesterol.1 Interestingly, people don’t just take supplements because their doctor recommended them. Rather, over 75% choose supplementation on their own.1
A study in the medical journal ” JAMA Internal Medicine” says dietary supplements do improve health. “Use of supplements was related to more favorable health and lifestyle choices.”1
And another study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported that a substantial proportion of people 51 years of age or older do not get enough vitamins and minerals from their diets alone and less than half take supplements.
The article states that older men and women who regularly take nutritional supplements are more likely to get adequate amounts of several vitamins and minerals than peers who do not take supplements. Analyzing data on 4,384 men and women aged 51 or older showed conclusively that those persons who took supplements were better nourished. 2
Interestingly, 1 in 4 adults who live in an urban community (≥55 years of age) was at nutrition risk. 3 That’s a lot of people who are malnourished, especially considering the availability of so many programs. Compared to adequately nourished patients, malnourished patients are at increased risk of death and have fewer quality-adjusted years of life.3
More people are taking supplements now than they did in years past. And most people take more than one type. What are the characteristics of people who take supplements? Dietary supplement users tend to be older, more physically active, non-smokers, educated, and with lower BMI compared with non-supplement users.1
Multivitamin-minerals (MVMs) were the most common type of dietary supplements reported.1 Omega-3 fatty acids and fish oils were the third most common supplement taken. And these were used most commonly for “heart health or to lower cholesterol.” 1
The studies indicate that certain dietary supplement ingredients may cause health problems if ingested in excess. For instance, too much iron consumption may be harmful to the heart, while too much zinc may impair immune function and decrease HDL (good cholesterol).
Keep in mind the importance of not only using dietary supplements to ensure proper nutritional intake and health. But also remember to use reputable, high-quality products formulated based on scientific and clinical evidence.
1Bailey, Regan L., et al. “Why US adults use dietary supplements.” JAMA internal medicine 173.5 (2013): 355-361.
2Sebastian, Rhonda S., et al. “Older adults who use vitamin/mineral supplements differ from nonusers in nutrient intake adequacy and dietary attitudes.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 107.8 (2007): 1322-1332.
3Sulo, Suela, et al. “Community-Dwelling Adults at Nutrition Risk: Characteristics in Relation to the Consumption of Oral Nutritional Supplements.” Journal of Primary Care & Community Health 11 (2020): 2150132720922716.