Taking vitamin supplements is a common behavior in the U.S.

An estimated 40 percent of the U.S. population report taking at least one vitamin or mineral supplement during the past month, according to an article appearing in the March issue of the Archives of Family Medicine, a member of the Journal of the American Medical Association family of journals.

The researchers used data from 33,905 participants in the National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey III to determine the prevalence and characteristics of vitamin and mineral supplement use in the United States.

More than 11,000 of the survey participants (approximately 32 percent) reported taking at least one vitamin or mineral supplement at any time during the past month. Based on calculations that consider the survey design and characteristics of the participants, the authors estimate this reflects vitamin or supplement use by approximately 40 percent of the U.S. population. The 10 most commonly reported ingredients in the supplemental products taken are: vitamin C, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, niacin, thiamin, vitamin B2, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin D and folic acid.

Participants reported using more than 300 nonvitamin and nonmineral products, some of which are documented as posing serious health risks. The researchers suggest health care professionals obtain medical histories from their patients, including information on dietary supplements. They also encourage health care professionals to be alert to the potential hazards of nutritional supplement overdosing or underdosing and recommend that all dietary supplements clearly list ingredients and known contraindications.

According to background information in the article, as much as $1.3 to $1.7 billion are spent annually on vitamin and mineral supplements in the United States, making these the third largest over-the-counter drug category used.


Contact: CDC Office of Communication
Center for the Advancement of Health

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