Adults frequently use dietary supplements, including multivitamins, calcium, and omega-3 or fish oil, to improve or maintain their health, and less than one-quarter of this use is on the basis of health care provider recommendation, according to research published online Feb. 4 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Regan L. Bailey, PhD, RD, of the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, and colleagues used data from the nationally-representative, cross-sectional, population-based National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, involving 11,956 adults, to evaluate peoples' motivations for taking dietary supplements.
The most commonly cited reasons why adults use dietary supplements like multivitamins, calcium, and omega-3 or fish oil were to improve or maintain overall health. The researchers found that adults 60 years or older were more likely than younger individuals to use supplements for site-specific reasons, such as bone or heart health. Supplements were used on the basis of health care provider recommendations in only 23 percent of cases. Supplement users were more likely to report very good or excellent health, be insured, not smoke, drink alcohol moderately, and exercise more frequently, compared with adults who did not use dietary supplements.
"Given the widespread use of dietary supplements for health promotion and maintenance, increased clinical research efforts are warranted to address safety and efficacy," the authors write. "Also, more investigation on the complex interplay of social, psychological and economic determinants that motivate supplement choices [is] needed."