US Dietary Supplement Use

 In General Health, Supplements

Millions of Americans take dietary supplements every day. 54% of Americans take dietary supplements in hopes that it will improve their overall health. 36% take them with the intention of filling the gaps in their diet.

Unfortunately, some people consider taking supplements as an excuse for eating a poor diet. However, what they don’t know is that the human body absorbs nutrients much more efficiently through real food. While dietary supplements are valuable to add to your body what you don’t get enough of through food, they should not be used as a substitute for smart eating.

There are a variety of different dietary supplements. Some are simply one vitamin, others are a combination, such as a multi-vitamin. Other supplements contain herbs, which have health benefits not specific to a certain vitamin or mineral but could still improve the overall health of the person who takes it. The top four categories of dietary supplements are: vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin D, or calcium), specialty supplements (like fish oil and fiber), herbals and botanicals (such as garlic or echinacea), sports nutrition and weight management (protein bars or whey protein).

68% of all U.S. adults take some form of dietary supplement. 97% of Americans take vitamins and minerals as a dietary supplement, while 46% percent take specialty supplements, such as fish oil and fiber. Of the Americans who take vitamin and mineral supplements, 77% of those take them in the form of a multi-vitamin.

Women appear to be slightly more likely to take dietary supplements. 72% of American women take dietary supplements, while 64% of U.S. Men do.

Overall, it seems that people who take better care of themselves take dietary supplements. These people try to eat a balanced diet, don’t smoke, see their doctor on a regular basis, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise regularly.

While people of all age groups take dietary supplements, 73% of them were adults when they started taking supplements, as opposed to only 11% began taking them as children, 12% as adolescents and 18% during pregnancy.

When Americans are deciding what dietary supplements to take, they most often turn to their physician. 55% listen to their doctor’s advice on what to take, while 34% listen to their pharmacist’s recommendations, and 30% use a nutritionist.

There are some precautions that are necessary when taking dietary supplements. It is crucial that you do not take more than the recommended dosage on the bottle. While supplements taken in the proper amounts can be a great benefit to your health, taking more than necessary can have serious repercussions. For example, taking too much iron can not only constipate the digestive system, it can also poison your blood.

The majority of Americans buy their supplements from a mass merchandiser or drugstore, 48% and 39% respectively. The rest buy their supplements from supermarkets, warehouse clubs or specialty retailers.

While these statistics seem to suggest that dietary supplements are benefiting the lives of many Americans, please consult your choice of healthcare provider before beginning a regiment of supplements.

Photo credit: bradley j / Foter / CC BY

All information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice or instruction.  It is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any medical condition.  For specific medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, consult your doctor. None of the statements on this website have been evaluated by the FDA.