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November 15, 2001

U.S. Citizens Aged 50 and Older Deem Dietary Supplements Essential For People Their Age, Study Finds

Yet Disconnect Found between Older Americans and Doctors Regarding Supplement Use

 (SafetyAlerts) -  A large majority of older Americans, or 65% of adults aged 50 or older, consider supplements "essential" for people their age, according a recent national survey. The results also showed that, unfortunately, only four out of ten older adults have received dietary supplement recommendations from their doctors.

The nationwide survey, commissioned by the National Nutritional Foods Association, questioned 736 adults aged 50 or older on their behaviors, perceptions and attitudes regarding the use of dietary supplements. Respondents also were asked about their opinions on current supplement labeling information.

Although most older Americans (70%) take vitamins, minerals or herbs, and expect physicians to be a leading source of information about possible drug interaction, only 40% of older adults have received dietary supplement recommendations from their doctors. And health care professionals are advising women more than men. More than half of women (53% vs. 32% of men) agree with the statement, "My doctors have recommended that I take specific vitamins and/or minerals for my health."

"The report that older Americans expect to discuss the use of dietary supplements with health care practitioners is a wake-up call for both the medical community and particularly for American males," said David Seckman, NNFA's executive director and CEO. "For whatever reason, patients are not obtaining recommendations from their doctors on supplement use. Physicians should make inquiries about what supplements older Americans take to prevent drug interactions and ensure they're meeting nutritional needs."

According to Phillip Harvey, Ph.D., NNFA's director of science and quality assurance, "This segment of the population often takes a variety of medications, so it is even more important for the medical community and the natural products industry to cooperate on issues of education."

Key survey findings:

* When asked which of the following sources older Americans expect to provide them with information about possible drug interactions, an overwhelming majority of the respondents names their pharmacist (84%), followed by their physician (80%) and prescription drug labels (63%).

* In a departure from previous studies, a solid majority of respondents realizes that food alone may not be enough to satisfy nutritional goals. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents (63%) agree with the statement, "The amount of minerals and vitamins I obtain from the food I eat is not enough for my dietary needs." Past studies showed that survey respondents did not have insight into the fact that they likely are not obtaining the appropriate amount of nutrients from their diets.

* Most older adults perceive dietary supplements as a very important investment. Six out of ten older adults (62%) agree -- with 38% agreeing strongly -- with the statement, "I consider the money I spend on dietary supplements an essential investment in my health."

* Labels on supplements' bottles or packages are read carefully by most of those surveyed. A majority reports that labels help them choose the right supplement and to determine the correct dosage. In response to the statement, "I always carefully read labels when choosing my dietary supplements," seven out of ten adults (70%) agree, with more than half (56%) agreeing "strongly."

* Women aged 50 or over assign more value to dietary supplements than men (73% of women consider them essential). Women respondents also were more likely to report taking a dietary supplement than men (76% vs. 63% respectively).

* Supplements taken by seniors include multivitamins (60%), mineral supplements (30%) and herbal remedies (20%).

Source: PRNewswire.

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