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July 12, 2013

Dietary Supplements: Who Takes Them And Why

dietary supplementsWhy Do We Take Dietary Supplements?

Do you take dietary supplements?  If so, why do you take them? Here’s an interesting study published in JAMA Internal Medicine that examined the reasons why the use of dietary supplements has increased in recent years, and the reasons people give for taking them. This is a large study examining data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2007-2010) on 11,956 adults.

The study showed that people who rated their health to be very good or excellent were more likely to take supplements. They were also more likely to exercise, too – so they are obviously health conscious individuals. Are they healthier because they take supplement, we don’t know? Dietary supplement users were more likely to have health insurance.

Demographics of Dietary Supplement Users

Women (54.4%) were more likely than men (43.1%) to take dietary supplements, and dietary supplement use was more common among individuals above age 60 than younger individuals. Dietary supplement use is higher among whites were more likely to use dietary supplements than other races.

The Reasons for Taking Dietary Supplements

First, only 23% take dietary supplements based on a physician’s recommendation. Forty-five percent take dietary supplements for the purpose of improving their health, while 32.8% take them to maintain their current level of health. Other reasons stated include bone health (25.2%, diet supplement (22%), prevention (20%) and heart/cholesterol reasons (15%).

Thirty-six percent of women reported taking calcium supplements for bone health while 11.3% of men took calcium for bone health. I suspect this is the most common reason why physicians might recommend a dietary supplement. Eighteen percent of men report taking dietary supplements for heart health or to lower cholesterol.

What Dietary Supplements are Taken?

Not surprisingly multivitamins and minerals were the most common types of dietary supplements, but what I think is surprising their use was reported by only 32% of the supplement takers – I would have guessed higher. Calcium was the next highest supplement taken reported by 11.6% followed by fish oil reported by 9.8%.

I think one take home message from this study is that individuals are taking a more active role in their health.

For more information on the use of dietary supplements go to PDR® for Nutritional Supplements and the PDR® for Herbal Medicines.

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Dr. Joe Jacko


Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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