Dietary Supplement Use Was Very High among Older Adults in the United States in 2011-2014

J Nutr. 2017 Oct;147(10):1968-1976. doi: 10.3945/jn.117.255984. Epub 2017 Aug 30.


Background: Dietary supplements (DSs) have the potential to be both beneficial and harmful to health, especially in adults aged ≥60 y, and therefore it is important to monitor the patterns of their use.Objective: This study evaluated DS use by adults aged ≥60 y to characterize the use of DSs, determine the motivations for use, and examine the associations between the use of DSs and selected demographic, lifestyle, and health characteristics.Methods: Data from 3469 older adults aged ≥60 y from the 2011-2014 NHANES were analyzed. DSs used in the past 30 d were ascertained via an interviewer-administered questionnaire in participants' homes. The prevalence of overall DS use and specific types of DSs were estimated. The number of DSs reported and the frequency, duration, and motivation(s) for use were assessed. Logistic regression models were constructed to examine the association between DS use and selected characteristics.Results: Seventy percent of older adults in the United States reported using ≥1 DS in the past 30 d; 54% of users took 1 or 2 products, and 29% reported taking ≥4 products. The most frequently reported products were multivitamin or mineral (MVM) (39%), vitamin D only (26%), and omega-3 fatty acids (22%). Women used DSs almost twice as often as men [adjusted OR (aOR), 1.8; 95% CI: 1.5, 2.3). Those not reporting prescription medications were less likely to take a DS than those reporting ≥3 prescription medications (aOR, 0.4; 95% CI: 0.3, 0.6). The most frequently reported motivation for DS use was to improve overall health (41%).Conclusions: Use of DSs among older adults continues to be high in the United States, with 29% of users regularly taking ≥4 DSs, and there is a high concurrent usage of them with prescription medications.

Keywords: NHANES; dietary supplements; mineral; nutrition monitoring; nutrition surveys; older adults; vitamin.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dietary Supplements / statistics & numerical data*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / administration & dosage
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Micronutrients / administration & dosage
  • Middle Aged
  • Minerals / administration & dosage
  • Motivation*
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Sex Factors
  • United States
  • Vitamin D / administration & dosage


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3
  • Micronutrients
  • Minerals
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Vitamin D