Over half of all Americans over the age of 20 years used dietary supplements in 2003-2006, with multivitamins being the most common. More people are purchasing other supplements, such as calcium and vitamin D, a new report issued by the NCHS (National Center For Health Statistics), part of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) informs. However, supplemental folic acid usage among females between 20 and 29 years of age hardly went up at all.

Dietary supplements, also known as nutritional supplements or food supplements are preparations aimed at supplementing the diet by providing essential nutrients, such as minerals, amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, and fiber that a person’s diet may be lacking. In some countries dietary supplements are defined as foods, while in others they are classed as health products or drugs.

Dietary supplements may have nutrients in equivalent or higher quantities to the Institute of Medicine’s Recommended Dietary Reference Intakes – they can contribute significantly to an individual’s total nutrient intake.

The CDC informs that monitoring American usage of dietary supplements is crucial when measuring the nation’s nutritional habits, the NCHS wrote “It is an important component of the National Nutrition Monitoring System.” Any national survey on nutrition and diets that did not include these data would be misleading and inaccurate.

In a communiqué, they wrote regarding the new report:

“This report provides estimates of dietary supplement use for specific population groups over time. In addition to overall use of dietary supplements, this report focuses on estimates for specific nutrients consumed through dietary supplement use.”

The report explains that dietary use is widespread among Americans aged 20 years or more. During the period 1988-1994, approximately 42% of US adults used one or more dietary supplement, and during 2003-2006 the figure rose to 53%. During both periods the authors explain that the use of dietary supplements was more common in females than males.

In 1998-1994, 30% of U.S. adults used at least one multivitamin/ multimineral, and in 2003-2006 the figure rose to 39%. A multivitamin/multimineral is a dietary supplement that contains three or more vitamins – minerals may or may not be included.

Usage of dietary supplements of antacids containing calcium grew steadily during both periods 1998-1994 and 1999-2002 among females of all ethnic and racial groups aged at least 60 years.

Supplemental calcium usage grew overall during 2003-2006 for females aged at least 60. However, the growth among non-Hispanic African-American women was defined as not significant. The authors also report that non-Hispanic African-American females aged at least 60 were less likely to use at least one dietary supplement containing calcium compared to Mexican-American women.

Among females aged 20 to 39 years, folic acid supplement use remained virtually unchanged during both periods, 1998-1994 and 2003-2006. Non-Hispanic Caucasian females are more likely to use at least one dietary supplement which contains folic acid compared to Mexican-American or non-Hispanic African-American women.

The report revealed that non-Hispanic white females take supplements containing folic acid at twice the rate of Mexican-American or non-Hispanic black women.

24% of adult males and 30% of adult females took supplements containing vitamin D in 1988-1994. Among males and females aged 20 to 29 years rates remained stable through 2003-2006. Among males and females aged 40-59 rates went up from 1988-1994 through 1999-2002, and remained unchanged in 2003-2006.

Among males aged at least 60 years, the increase in vitamin D supplement use was not significant between 1999-2002 and 2003-2006. However, among females of the same age rates grew from 49.7% in 1999-2002 to 56.3% in 2003 to 2006.

The authors rate the USA adults’ use of dietary supplements as “high”, rising from 28% among males and 38% among females during the early 1970s to 53% overall (both sexes) during 2003-2006.

Many vitamins are added to foods, with lower rates for vitamin D. Making estimates of the population’s nutritional habits without including dietary supplements is pointless, the authors explain.

“Dietary Supplement Use Among U.S. Adults Has Increased Since NHANES III (1988-1994)”
Jaime Gahche, M.P.H.; Regan Bailey, Ph.D., R.D.; Vicki Burt, Sc.M., R.N.; Jeffery Hughes, M.P.H.; Elizabeth Yetley, Ph.D.; Johanna Dwyer, D.Sc., R.D.; Mary Frances Picciano, Ph.D.; Margaret McDowell, Ph.D., R.D.; and Christopher Sempos, Ph.D.
National Center For Health Statistics

Written by Christian Nordqvist