The use of vitamin supplements is on the rise among American adults ages twenty and over, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The report contains estimates of dietary supplement use for specific population groups over time, as well as those for specific nutrients consumed through use of the supplements.
Over the span of almost two decades, between the years 1988 and 2006, the use of dietary supplements has become widespread among U.S. adults. Usage has increased from 42 percent during the period from 1988 to 1994, to 53 percent between 2003 and 2006, especially among women.
Among the most commonly used dietary supplements among men and women are multivitamins/multiminerals with approximately 40 percent reporting their use during the period from 2003 through 2006. These dietary supplements contain a minimum of three vitamins, and may also contain minerals. During the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) from 1988 through 1994, these were the most frequently reported dietary supplements used. The percentage of the Americans who used at least one multivitamin/multimineral supplement rose from 30 percent in the period from 1988 through 1994 to 39 percent in 2003–2006, with more common use among women than men.
Among other increases reported the use of calcium supplements jumped from 28 percent during the 1988 through 1994 period, to 61 percent during the 2003 though 2006 period among women aged 60 and over. In addition, the use of dietary supplements and antacids containing calcium increased in both the periods from 1988 to 1994, and 1999 to 2002 among women aged 60 and over, and across all racial and ethnic groups. Increases were also seen during the years from 2003 through 2006 for women aged 60 and over, as well as for non-Hispanic white women (58.9 percent in 1999 through 2002, to 65.7 percent in 2003 through 2006) and Mexican-American women (39.5 percent to 52.3 percent), while no significant increase was seen among non-Hispanic black women.
Supplemental usage of folic acid among women ages 20 to 39 for all racial and ethnic groups remained stable at 34 percent from 1988 through 1994, and through the 2003 to 2006 period.
For vitamin D usage increases were noted for both men and women from 1988 through 1994 in most age groups. Rates were similar among both men and women with rates for men being approximately 24 percent, and about 30 percent for women. Rates for those aged 20 to 39 remained stable in the 2003 to 2006 period, whereas for those aged 40 to 59, rates increased from 1988 to 1994 through 1999 to 2002, and remained stable in 2003 to 2006. The increase of supplemental vitamin D usage among men aged 60 and over was not significant between the years 1999 and 2002, or the years between 2003 and 2006. However, among women aged 60 and over, rates continued to increase through the 2003 to 2006 period from 49.7 percent in 1999 to 2002, to 56.3 percent in 2003 to 2006.
Because dietary supplements often contain nutrients equal to or higher than the amounts recommended for intake by the Institute of Medicine, tracking their usage is important to the accuracy of the National Nutrition Monitoring System. The system was defined by Congress in 1990 as “the set of activities necessary to provide timely information about the role and status of factors that bear on the contribution that nutrition makes to the health of the people of the United States.”