A recent study, published in The Journal of Nutrition, looked at nutrient and herbal supplement use in U.S. adults. The study surveyed over 3,400 people ages 60 and older between 2011 and 2014. “About 70 percent of respondents reported using at least one dietary supplement over the previous 30 days,” says study co-author Johanna Dwyer, DSc, RD, senior nutrition scientist with the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health and director of the Frances Stern Nutrition Center at Tufts University. Older Americans may want to rethink this practice, however, since a growing number of studies have found that supplements may not have the intended health benefits. Additionally, more information is needed on potential interactions between supplements and prescription drugs.
Disappointing Outcomes: Vitamins, minerals, and other supplements have been touted over the years as a way to make up for nutritional deficiencies, prevent disease, and boost overall health. “Seventy-nine percent or more of survey respondents reported daily use of the most common products like multivitamin/mineral preparations, vitamin D, and omega-3 supplements,” says Dwyer. Unfortunately, these popular products and other supplements may not provide significant health benefits. “Early observational studies suggested we would see benefits from nutrient supplementation, but, unfortunately, many of those benefits have not been realized,” says Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, senior scientist at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging and executive editor of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. Recently, a review published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiologyreported that supplements generally showed no effect on either cardiovascular outcomes or death from any cause. Folic acid, which showed a modest statistically significant reduction in stroke and total cardiovascular disease, was the only exception reported in this study.