The use of dietary supplements among older persons in southern Germany - results from the KORA-age study

J Nutr Health Aging. 2014 May;18(5):510-9. doi: 10.1007/s12603-013-0418-8.


Objectives: Current population-based surveys in Europe on the prevalence of dietary supplement (DS) use in older individuals are scarce. The aim of the present study was to investigate patterns, prevalence and determinants of non-herbal DS use in aged subjects. Furthermore, the intake amounts of vitamins and minerals from supplements were assessed.

Design: Cross-sectional.

Setting: Data on supplement use were available from an age- and sex-stratified random sample of the German population-based KORA (Cooperative Health Research in the Region of Augsburg)-Age study.

Participants: 1,079 persons who were born in or before the year 1943.

Measurements: Use of dietary supplements and medications during the last seven days was recorded in a face-to-face interview in 2009. Participants were asked to bring all packages of ingested preparations to the study center. Not only vitamin/mineral supplements, but also non-vitamin non-mineral non-herbal supplements and drugs containing vitamins and minerals were coded as DS.

Results: The age-standardized prevalence of DS intake was 54.3% in women and 33.8% in men, respectively. The most commonly supplemented mineral and vitamin, respectively, was magnesium (31.9%) and vitamin D (21.5%) in women and magnesium (18.0%) and vitamin E (12.0%) in men. The highest intakes, compared to the German Dietary Reference Intakes, were reported for biotin, vitamin B6 and B1. Excessive intakes (equal or above the European Tolerable Upper Intake Levels (UL)) were observed especially for magnesium and vitamin E. 20.2% of the women and 32.5% of the men who took magnesium supplements regularly exceeded the UL for magnesium. In case of vitamin E this was true for 8.0% of the women and 13.6% of the men. Determinants of DS use were sex, education, smoking, physical activity, neurological diseases, and stroke.

Conclusion: A high proportion of the general population aged 65 years and older in Southern Germany uses DS, especially supplements containing vitamins/minerals. The supplementation of vitamin D can be regarded as favorable in this age group, whereas the excessive intakes of vitamin E might be a cause of concern.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biotin / administration & dosage
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dietary Supplements / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Magnesium / administration & dosage
  • Male
  • Thiamine / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin B 6 / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage
  • Vitamin E / administration & dosage


  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Biotin
  • Vitamin B 6
  • Magnesium
  • Thiamine