Americans Taking More Dietary Supplements?

It’s no secret that dietary supplements are popular among Americans. Now, a new study has found that dietary supplement use by U.S. adults is not only on the uptick, but also more prevalent than earlier data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) suggested.

The new review article, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (JACN), looks at usage rates over five consecutive years, as reported in online market research studies conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).

Emphasizing that this new study is an addition to the literature about dietary supplement users’ usage patterns, Annette Dickinson, Ph.D., corresponding author and a consultant for CRN, said in a press release that while the NHANES data is invaluable, respondents were questioned about their dietary supplement usage over a 30-day period.

The CRN/Ipsos data included regular, occasional, and seasonal use throughout the year, according to CRN. Dickinson said this data “more realistically captures the full scope of dietary supplement utilization.”

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Overall Supplement Use Is Up

According to the review article, overall supplement use as reported by respondents to the CRN surveys in 2007–2011 ranged from 64 to 69 percent.

Regular use of dietary supplements ranged from 48 to 53 percent (levels equivalent to the overall prevalence reported in NHANES).

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A Variety of Products

Are regular users taking a variety of products or only a multivitamin? Over the five-year period, the percentage of regular users who reported that they used a variety of supplements increased, while the percentage of those who said that they used only a multivitamin declined.

In fact, by 2011, the last of the five years, twice as many regular users said that they used a variety of products, compared to those who used only a multivitamin. Respondents’ verbatim responses for using dietary supplements included “overall health and wellness” and “to fill nutrient gaps in the diet.”

According to the study, the CRN surveys are in line with previous research, which reinforce the fact that users of dietary supplements are more likely than nonusers to adopt a variety of healthy habits.

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Users Are Health-Conscious

Judy Blatman, senior vice president of communications at CRN, and one of the study’s co-authors, told Healthline, “This article demonstrates that dietary supplement usage is more prevalent than what’s previously been reported, and that the primary reason people are taking supplements―to maintain overall health and fill nutrient gaps―shows that they view supplements as one component of good health.”

Blatman continued, “Because so many Americans consider dietary supplements as part of their health routines, it’s important for doctors and other healthcare practitioners to openly dialogue with their patients about which supplements are right for them. We’re also encouraged by the other findings in this article that supplement users also engage in other healthy habits rather than viewing supplements as magic bullets.”

Dietary supplement users are more likely than nonusers to try to eat a balanced diet, visit their doctor regularly, get a good night’s sleep, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight, according to Blatman.

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Recent Controversy

The study comes amid controversy that developed last December, in response to editorialists who responded to three articles on vitamin and mineral supplementation, published in Annals of Internal Medicine. The authors urged U.S. adults to stop wasting their money on dietary supplements. They cited accumulated evidence showing that most multivitamin supplements are ineffective, and said that some of them may cause harm. The authors also argued that most supplements do not prevent chronic disease or death.

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Steve Mister, CRN president and CEO, responded to the editorial in December 2013, stating in a press release, “We hope the authors would agree that there is an appropriate place for supplements. Given that government research repeatedly demonstrates that the typical consumer diet is falling short on critical nutrients, vitamin supplements are an appropriate option to meet those needs.”