TORONTO, April 9 - More than three-quarters of Canadians regularly taking vitamin supplements think they are having a moderate to strong impact on their overall health. And more than 80 percent believe vitamins can help prevent a number of diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and birth defects. Those are just two of the findings from the latest bi-annual survey of 1,000 Canadians commissioned by the Vitamin Information Service.
According to the February survey, 42 percent of Canadians take a vitamin supplement with most taking vitamins every day or almost every day. Approximately one out of five said they took more vitamins in the past year and/or added a new vitamin supplement to those they were taking.
The reasons Canadians take vitamins are largely the same as in previous surveys. "To feel healthy or make me feel better" remains number one, cited by nearly one-third of current users. "To supplement diet and 'don't eat right'" remains the second most commonly given reason, followed by for "energy/strength" and "to prevent disease". A number of specific diseases or health concerns such as "improve/maintain the immune system", "fight or get rid of colds", "osteoporosis" and "arthritis" are starting to appear on the list.
Sex, age and geographic region continue to affect vitamin and supplement usage. Across the country, on average women are still more likely to take a vitamin supplement than men, a trend that has remained virtually unchanged in the last four years. Canadians aged 65+ remain the heaviest supplement users, up slightly from 2001. Western Canadians lead the way with just under 48 percent regular supplement use, with Ontario and Atlantic Canada at 40 percent, followed by Quebec at 36 percent use.
A multi-vitamin remains the most commonly taken vitamin supplement (49 percent), followed by vitamin C (28 percent), vitamin E (22 percent) and B vitamins (9 percent).
Although the profile of Canadian vitamin users doesn't seem to be changing much, their attitudes continue to evolve to reflect key health and nutrition concerns. And what about those not taking vitamins? Studies have identified gaps and deficiencies in the nutritional health of Canadians that throw into question the validity of the top reason given by non-users, namely that they are "in good health already/don't need them".