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The dietary supplement business is booming. In fact, more than half of adult Americans use dietary supplements, according to an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
People most commonly take supplements to improve or maintain their health. And the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports Americans are willing to spend more than $32 billion each year to get the benefits of dietary supplements.
Are you getting your money’s worth?
According to a national report, only 10 percent or fewer Americans aren’t getting enough of the right nutrients. That means 90 percent or more are getting what they need nutritionally.
The report also notes that nutrient deficiencies vary by age, gender, and ethnicity. For instance, children and teens are rarely low in nutrients. However, 4 percent of older adults are likely to be deficient.
Nutrient deficiency is also more common in people who have certain medical conditions, such as celiac disease or people who have had gastric bypass surgery. There are five top culprits in the general population, listed below.
|Nutrient||Percentage of Americans Who Are Deficient||Who’s Most Affected|
|Vitamin B6||10.5||people over age 1|
|Iron||9.5||women ages 12 to 49|
|Vitamin D||8.1||people over age 1|
|Iron||6.7||children ages 1 to 5|
|Vitamin C||6||people over age 6|
|Vitamin B12||2||people over age 1, particularly older adults|
The correct intake of vitamins and minerals is essential for maintaining good health. They’re important to the processes that keep your body operational, including metabolism, cell production, and tissue repair. These nutrients also help prevent diseases such as lung, breast, and colon cancer.
You can’t simply pop a vitamin to get the same nutritional benefits. Vegetables and fruits contain a wide assortment of vitamins, minerals, and other compounds that have antioxidant or hormone-like properties. And they contain fiber, which is crucial to digestion and offers a number of health benefits.
The word "supplement" is key. Vitamins and supplements may be added to a well-rounded diet. A group of suggestions from various health organizations and institutions provides some guidance when considering supplements.
The American Heart Association states that people with documented heart disease and high triglycerides (high levels of blood fats) may benefit from taking EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acid supplements. However, that’s only necessary if you can’t eat fish high in omega-3 at least twice a week. EPA and DHA promote good heart health.
The Harvard School of Public Health says multivitamins are "a great nutrition insurance policy." The institution notes that low levels of vitamin D are associated with a doubled risk of death and increased risk of death in people with cardiovascular problems.
Vitamin D helps the body better absorb calcium and other minerals. It can be found in certain foods, such as dairy products, and can be absorbed by the skin when exposed to sunlight.
You’re at greater risk for vitamin D deficiency if you:
In the United States, that means anyone who lives in cities like Denver and San Francisco — and other places to the north — are at increased risk for deficiency. These populations would likely benefit greatly from supplementing their vitamin D intake.
Mayo Clinic makes these recommendations:
The NIH stresses that diet is the most important source for nutrients. NIH recommendations are the same as those from Mayo Clinic, with these additions:
Written by: Susan York Morris
Medically reviewed on: Dec 23, 2014: George Krucik, MD, MBA
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