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General health & wellness (and not disease concerns) top list of supplement use reasons

By Stephen DANIELLS , 05-Feb-2013
Last updated on 06-Feb-2013 at 17:59 GMT

‘Improving’ and ‘maintaining’ overall health are the top reasons for consumers to use supplements, according to new data from the National Institutes of Health.

A paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine also reported that dietary supplement users were also more likely to have lower BMIs, consume less alcohol, exercise more, and be non-smokers, than non-users.

“Very little is known about the efficacy of dietary supplements for disease prevention, management, or treatment in nutrient-replete populations,” wrote the researchers, led by Regan Bailey, PhD, RD, from the office of dietary supplements at the NIH.

“It is often difficult to study the use of supplements in disease prevention and health promotion in epidemiologic research, because supplement use cannot be disentangled from other health-seeking behaviors.

“Studying the use of supplements in randomized clinical trials is also difficult because they tend to be short in duration, whereas many of the chronic diseases of public health concern have a long latency period (ie, cancer, heart disease).

“Nevertheless, given the widespread use of dietary supplements for health promotion and maintenance, increased clinical research efforts are warranted to address safety and efficacy.”

Data

Dr Bailey and her co-workers analyzed data from 11,956 American adults. The results indicated that, after “improving” (45%) and “maintaining” (33%) overall health, the next most popular motivations for taking supplements were “supplement”, “prevent”, “bone health”, “immunity”, and “heart health”.

Taylor Wallace, PhD, from the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), told NutraIngredients-USA that the study showed that “many consumers are taking supplements for the right reasons”.

Dr Wallace was “excited that the study was published in JAMA… and it showed that consumers are taking supplements to improve overall health and wellness, and not specifically for chronic diseases”.

“Many of the industry’s critics suggest that consumers take supplements in lieu of other healthy activities, but this data points in the opposite direction. It shows what we have known for a long time - consumers are taking supplements as part of a healthy lifestyle.”

Consumer use

Numerous surveys agree that consumer supplement use is growing, or at least staying constant.

Data from the CRN annual survey indicated that 68% of American adults use nutritional or dietary supplements, matching the 69% in 2011, 66% in 2010 and 65% in 2009.

Multivitamins topped the tables for the most used supplement type, followed by omega-3s/fish oil, vitamin D, vitamin C, and calcium.

Data from The Vitamin Shoppe's annual survey indicated that dietary supplements usage was 63% of the US population.

Multivitamins again led the pack, followed by vitamin D, vitamin C, calcium, B vitamins, and fish oil.

The Vitamin Shoppe data also revealed that 93% of vitamin users are more confident about their health when taking dietary supplements, a 21% increase from 2011.

Source: JAMA Internal Medicine
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.2299
“Why US Adults Use Dietary Supplements”
Authors: R.L. Bailey, J.J. Gahche, P.E. Miller, P.R. Thomas, J.T. Dwyer 

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