Dietary supplement intake among the elderly: hazards and benefits

Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2018 Nov;21(6):465-470. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000512.


Purpose of review: A large percentage of older adults do not receive recommended amounts of many nutrients from food alone. Accordingly, the routine use of dietary supplements has become common among older persons. Although supplement use provides potential benefits by increasing nutrient intakes, there are potential drawbacks.

Recent findings: Clinical studies have pointed to potential reductions in the risk to develop age-related diseases among older people who reported long-term use of multivitamin supplements. Higher plasma levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were also associated with fewer cardiovascular deaths in older people consuming omega-3 supplements. Dietary protein supplementation combined with exercise had a strong effect in preventing age-related muscle mass attenuation and leg strength loss in older people. Finally, beneficial effects of purified flavonoids on cognitive functions have been reported in some studies, whereas in a significant number of other studies, no such effect could be observed.

Summary: The use of dietary supplements among older people has increased over the years due to the expectation of reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases. Although some dietary supplements may indeed fulfill some of these expectations, it would be unwise to assume that they are all efficacious and safe to use.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control*
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male