A report published in the February, 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition reveals widespread use of dietary supplements among Americans, particularly among older individuals.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements and the National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Maryland utilized data obtained from 18,758 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003-2006. Infants under the age of one were excluded from the current analysis.
Forty-four percent of males and 53 percent of females reported using supplements, which is an increase from the percentages reported in earlier NHANES surveys beginning in 1971. For those aged 71 and older, supplement use was reported by 70 percent. Multivitamin/mineral formulas were the most common form of supplementation. Twenty-eight to 30 percent of those surveyed used supplements containing vitamins A, B6, B12, C and E; 18 to 19 percent used chromium, iron and selenium, and 26-27 percent used magnesium and zinc. Herbs were used by 20 percent of adults and were more commonly used by older adults.
While 56 percent of those of normal weight were supplement users, this number declined to 48 percent among those who were obese, a finding that is consistent with that of other analyses. Non-Hispanic whites were more likely to use supplements compared to Hispanics and non-whites and higher education was associated with greater use of supplements compared to having a high school diploma or less education.
"About one-half of the US population and 70% of adults ≥ 71 years use dietary supplements; one-third use multivitamin-multimineral dietary supplements," the authors conclude. "Given the widespread use of supplements, data should be included with nutrient intakes from foods to correctly determine total nutrient exposure."
The premise of taking actions to maintain youthful health and vigor is based on findings from peer-reviewed scientific studies that identify specific factors that cause us to develop degenerative disease. These studies suggest that the consumption of certain foods, food extracts, hormones, or drugs will help to prevent common diseases that are associated with normal aging.
Therefore, the concept of disease prevention can be defined as the incorporation of findings from published scientific studies into a logical daily regimen that enables an individual to attain optimal health and longevity.
For the greater part of the 20th century, mainstream medicine was openly hostile to the idea of healthy people taking vitamin supplements. This antivitamin position began to change in the 1990s as irrefutable evidence emerged that supplements could reduce the risk of age-related disease without inducing toxicity.
In the April 9, 1998, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, an editorial was entitled "Eat Right and Take a Multi-Vitamin." This article was based on studies indicating that certain supplements could reduce homocysteine serum levels and therefore lower heart attack and stroke risk. This was the first time this prestigious medical journal recommended vitamin supplements (Oakley 1998).
An even stronger endorsement for the use of vitamin supplements was in the June 19, 2002, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). According to the Harvard University doctors who wrote the JAMA guidelines, it now appears that people who get enough vitamins may be able to prevent such common illnesses as cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. The Harvard researchers concluded that suboptimal levels of folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 are a risk factor for heart disease and colon and breast cancers; low levels of vitamin D contribute to osteoporosis; and inadequate levels of the antioxidant vitamins A, E, and C may increase the risk of cancer and heart disease (Fairfield et al. 2002).
A study in the journal Atherosclerosis (Koscielny et al. 1999) showed that people who took a 900 mg garlic supplement every day for 4 years had 5-18% less plaque buildup in their carotid arteries compared to the placebo group. The women in the study group actually showed a 4.6% decrease in carotid plaque volume over a 4-year period, whereas the placebo group showed a 5.3% increase in artery-clogging plaque.
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