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Multivitamins, vitamin D & omega-3s most popular supplements for older Americans: Survey

By Stephen Daniells+

08-Sep-2017

© iStock
© iStock

Dietary supplement use among older Americans is high, with women twice as likely as men to use the products, says a new analysis of the 2011-2014 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Seventy percent of Americans aged 60 and over reported using at least one dietary supplement in the past 30 days, while 54% took one or two products, and almost 30% took at least four products. This appears consistent with data from the Council for Responsible Nutrition’s Annual Survey on Dietary Supplements . Data from 2016 showed that people over 55 years of age had the highest percentage of users of any age group (74%).

The most frequently used products were multivitamin or mineral (39%), vitamin D only (26%), and omega-3 fatty acids (22%), according to data published in the Journal of Nutrition .

“[Dietary supplements] may be necessary to help older adults supplement their diets and fill nutrient gaps to increase the likelihood of achieving recommended intakes, specifically for vitamins D and B-12 and for calcium,” noted the researchers from the The NIH’s Office of Dietary Supplements, Purdue University, and the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University,

“However, we found that older adults were using [dietary supplements] primarily not for this purpose of supplementing the diet, but rather for other health related reasons. For example, the most common reason for taking [multivitamin or mineral] was to improve health, the second and third reasons were for bone health and to maintain health, respectively, and the fourth reason was to supplement the respondent’s diet.”

Potential for interactions

Older Americans also take a lot of prescription medications, said the authors, with the data showing that 73% of those surveyed who were taking at least three prescription medications were more likely to report dietary supplement use than people not taking a prescription medication.

The authors also reported that 8% of older Americans who reported taking at least three prescription medications were also taking at least one botanical supplement.

“Most [dietary supplements] are not prescribed by health care practitioners, and [dietary supplements] use is not routinely discussed during health care visits,” they wrote. “Therefore, it is unlikely that anticipatory guidance about [dietary supplement] use with prescription medications is routinely being provided to patients, particularly for those with polypharmacy both for prescription drugs and botanical [dietary supplements]. Herb-drug interactions could enhance or negate the other’s effects or could modulate the activity of enzymes and drug transporters.

“The risk of adverse reactions due to interactions is increased when these and other [dietary supplements] containing high amounts of certain botanicals or other nonvitamin or nonmineral supplements are used concurrently with many prescription medications. Health care professionals should be aware of [dietary supplement] use in their patients and should monitor their use for safety and possible nutrient–drug interactions.”

Andrea Wong, PhD, CRN’s VP of scientific & regulatory affairs, said that organization agreed that healthcare practitioners should be aware of dietary supplement use and monitoring for potential interactions, but for that to occur there must be an open dialogue between doctor and patient, with the doctor knowing to ask the patient and the patient being honest with their doctor.

“Another important point is that, in addition to potential interactions, some prescription medications may deplete nutrients from the body, like vitamin B12 and magnesium when antacids are used,” said Dr Wong. “In that case it is a good idea to supplement the diet with B12 and magnesium, and for there to be regular updates between the doctor and the patient about which prescription and OTC medications and dietary supplements are being taken and why.”

What and why?

According to CRN’s 2016 Annual Survey on Dietary Supplements, the top five supplements used by adults 55+ are: 1. Multivitamin (72% of supplement users 55+ take a multivitamin)
2. Vitamin D (43%)
3. Calcium (33%)
4. Vitamin C (30%)
5. Vitamin B/B Complex (21%)

And the top five reasons for using dietary supplements for this age group are:
1. Overall health/wellness benefits (49% of supplement users 55+ take supplements for overall health and wellness benefits)
2. To fill in nutrient gaps in my diet (34%)
3. Bone health (33%)
4. Healthy aging (28%)
5. Heart health (24%)

Source: Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/​jn.117.255984
“Dietary Supplement Use Was Very High among Older Adults in the United States in 2011–2014”
Authors: J.J. Gahche et al. 

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