Supplement Use Among Older Americans Very High


Dietary supplement use among Americans who are 60 and or older is widespread.

Dietary supplement use among Americans who are 60 and or older is widespread, according to a study conducted by researchers from the National Institutes of Health, Purdue University, and Tufts University.

The researchers undertook this study to determine how older adults use dietary supplements. Although dietary supplements may address undernutrition in older adults, they may be associated with other potentially dangerous outcomes, they noted. Areas of concern include supplementation with nutrients that are already fortified in the American food supply, drug interactions, and adverse reactions.

The researchers used NHANES data, a representative sample of civilian, noninstitutionalized citizens. The National Center for Health Statistics conducted this survey.

Overall, the results determined that 70% of older Americans use 1 or more dietary supplements. This is a slight increase from data reported between 1999 and 2000. Women were almost twice as likely to take supplements as men.

The likelihood that an individual was taking dietary supplements increased with age. About 29% of older Americans reported taking 4 or more dietary supplements routinely, according to the findings. Older Americans who were taking 3 or more prescription medications were more likely to take dietary supplements than those who were not taking any prescription medications.

Most common supplements included multivitamin and mineral supplements, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acid, and B complex or B vitamins. Other common supplements included calcium, vitamin C, and botanicals or herbals.

Americans with higher levels of education were more likely to use supplements as were those with higher incomes, private insurance, and 2 or more health care visits in the past year. Non-smokers were also more likely to use dietary supplements.

Most participants used dietary supplements to improve their overall health, for bone health, and to augment their diets. They also frequently used dietary supplements for heart health and to lower their cholesterol levels.

Most Americans don't think to mention that they take dietary supplements when they see health care providers. Pharmacists should consider asking patients routinely about their dietary supplement use.


Gahche JJ, Bailey RL, Potischman N, Dwyer JT. Dietary supplement use was very high among older adults in the United States in 2011-2014. J Nutr. 2017;pii: jn255984. doi: 10.3945/jn.117.255984.

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