Older Americans taking supplements need them least

January 21, 2003 in Nutrition for Older Adults, Nutrition Topics in the News, Vitamins, Minerals, Supplements

Older Americans taking supplements need them least

Though there is still very little solid data on older Americans and dietary supplement use, most studies show that those who take supplements tend to need them the least, while those who need them most are not taking them.

The National Institute on Aging sponsored the meeting to get more data on why growing numbers of seniors are taking dietary supplements and herbal products, what they're taking and how the supplements might interfere with regular medical care or interact with prescription medications.

Based on the most recent data from a 1988-1994 federal health survey, 41% of white males and 55% of white females over age 60 said they had used supplements in the past month.

More recent smaller studies show even higher use among all older Americans, with 47% of men and 59% of women over age 65 saying they had taken a supplement recently.

Older Americans take more supplements than younger groups, and the percent using them has been rising.

Overall, the typical older supplement user lives in the West, has more education, a higher income, lower body mass index and is more physically active than a non-supplement user. Supplement users also tend to be former smokers, eat a balanced diet and report themselves to be in good health.

The nutritionists also reported low use of two vitamins that have been recommended for older Americans-vitamin D and B-12. More older Americans are taking calcium, but aren't getting the message to take the other vitamins, the researchers said.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is important for preventing osteoporosis.

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