Supplements reduce health care costs, shows study

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dietary supplements, Health care

A major study into the economics of older Americans taking omega-3
and lutein with zeaxanthin supplements has shown that they may
shave a combined $5.6 billion off health care costs over the next
five years, and help seniors live independently for longer.

The Lewin Group was commissioned by the Dietary Supplement Education Alliance (DSEA) to study the scientific evidence on the two supplements' ability to reduce the risk of disease and developed Congressional Budget Office-type estimates of potential health care savings.

It found that a daily intake of 1800mg of omega-3 by the over-65s could result in conservative savings of around $3.1 billion in five years, from physicians fees and approximately 385,303 fewer hospitalizations.

According to the American Heart Association, 13 million Americans (6.9 percent of the population) suffer from coronary heart disease (CHD), with men experiencing their first heart attack at the average age of 65.8 years and women at 70.4 years.

A qualified health claim for the role of omega-3 supplements containing EPA and DHA in preventing CHD was approved by the FDA in 2000. A second claim, covering conventional foods containing EPA and DHA, was approved in September 2004.

As for lutein with zeaxanthin, carotenoids that have been shown to reduce the risk of age-related vision loss from causes such as macular degeneration, taking 6-10 mg per day could prevent around 98,219 Americans becoming dependent on community or nursing facility support, with a saving of around $2.5 billion.

What is more, vision loss can contribute to other health conditions; for example, 18 percent of hip fractures are attributed to age-related vision loss.

These findings have met with applause from the DSEA, which said that it reinforces the efficacy and health benefits of supplement use.

"With healthcare costs for Americans 65 and older expected to reach $16 trillion by the year 2030, the need for innovative and preventative healthcare solutions is clearer than ever,"​ said Elliott Balbert, DSEA president.

According to Balbert, more than 187 million consumers take dietary supplements on a daily basis.

The unveiling of the findings was also used as an opportunity for Congressman Chris Cannon to announce the creation of a bipartisan caucus on dietary supplements that will champion additional research and public policy to support them.

"As more and more Americans start taking responsibility for their own health, it's important that government acknowledge the positive impact dietary supplements have on disease prevention, and the substantial cost benefits to the healthcare system that result,"​ said Cannon, who will co-chair the caucus with Congressman Frank Pallone.

Cannon has also introduced a bill (HR 1545) that would enable supplements to be paid for by Flexible Savings Accounts and Health Savings Accounts.

Manuel Pavon, general manager of Chrysantis, which makes the only natural zeaxanthin on the market, praised the study for including zeaxanthin alongside lutein.

"Many zeaxanthin and lutein products have been launched this year, making possible for people to have the best possible protection,"​ he said.

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