Among supplement users, multivitamins were the most widely used supplement (71%), followed by omega-3 or fish oil (33%), calcium (32%), vitamin D (32%) and vitamin C (32%). The most frequently cited reasons for the use of supplements were for overall health and well-being (58%) and for filling nutrient gaps in the diet (42%). Among all age groups, adults aged 35 to 54 have the highest use of dietary supplements at 81 percent. Participants were also asked whether they used the supplement for their own reasons or on the advice of a healthcare provider.
But are all these products effective, safe and necessary? Research has confirmed that some of these supplements, such as folic acid and fish oil, may be beneficial. About a quarter (23%) of supplements were reported to be used on the recommendation of a health professional. The Council on Responsible Nutrition (CRN) recently released a survey that indicated, among other statistics, that approximately 68 percent of all adults in the United States report taking dietary supplements on a regular basis. For example, it is worth checking whether dietary supplements with low-quality scientific evidence receive the most attention.
The use of multiple dietary supplements (two, three, and four or more) increased with age; nearly a quarter of adults aged 60 and over (24.9%) reported taking four or more dietary supplements. However, it seems that vitamins and minerals are the most sought after among Google users and the supplements that are consumed the most. Supplement use was also lower in those with little reported exercise, higher in those who reported 1 alcoholic drink per day, and higher among those who reported excellent or very good health (Table. The purpose of this analysis was to examine the motivations for the use of dietary supplements, to characterize the types of products used for the most frequently reported motivations, and to examine the role of physicians and health professionals in guiding dietary supplement choices.
Part of the problem is that unlike pharmaceuticals, dietary supplements can be sold without proof of safety, efficacy or purity. Adults also reported using supplements to “get more energy (11%), for “mental health (4%) and prostate health in men (4%) and for “weight loss (3%) or “menopause or hot flashes in women (2%). Magnesium use among respondents increased to 43.1 percent, compared to 38.1 percent last year, a relative growth of 13 percent and the largest increase among major supplements. Previous research also suggests that supplement users have a higher intake of most vitamins and minerals just for their food choices than non-consumers.
When confronting hyper-optimistic commercial content, healthcare professionals should actively engage in online discourse and help the public understand the real benefits and harms of dietary supplements.