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Supplement Use Increasing in Both Use and Health Benefits

By Greg Arnold, DC, CSCS, September 23, 2009, abstracted from “A Longitudinal Study of Non-vitamin, Non-mineral Supplement Use: Prevalence, Associations, and Survival in an Aging Population” in the December 2007 issue of the Annals of Epidemiology

The vitamin supplement industry generates nearly $24 billion in sales each year (1).  Use of vitamin supplements has been shown to produce significant health savings. These include nearly $14 billion savings per year by preventing hip fractures from osteoporosis with calcium and vitamin D supplementation and more than $1 billion savings by preventing neural tube defects with folic acid supplementation (2).

Taking a multivitamin supplement has been shown to yield numerous benefits, including heavier birth weights (3), and helping brain health (4), fertility (5), and cell health during strenuous exercise (6).  Supplement use has even increased significantly among doctors and nurses (7).

Now a new study (8) has found that supplement use beyond vitamins and mineral supplements is increasing and benefiting overall health.  These supplements are called non-vitamin, non-mineral supplements (NVNM) and include supplements like ginseng, glucosamine, and saw palmetto.  In the study, nearly 5,000 patients were examined between 1988 and 1990 and then re-examined 5, 10, and 15 years later.  The patients provided blood and urine samples as well as information on their diet and nutritional supplement regimen.

After the initial exam of 5,000 patients, 3,700 were seen at the 5-year mark, nearly 3,000 at the 10-year mark, and nearly 2,400 at the 15-year mark.  Non-vitamin, non-mineral supplement use was 5% at the start, 6% at the second exam, 21% at the third and 30% at the fourth examination.  Lecithin was the most commonly used non-vitamin, non-mineral supplement at the initial exam (taken by 1.6% of the patients) followed by garlic (1.0%), omega-3 fatty (0.3%) and ginseng (0.2%).  By the 15-year visit, glucosamine was the most commonly used non-vitamin, non-mineral supplement (13.2%), followed by omega-3 fats (5.8%), garlic (5.5%), gingko biloba (2.9%), saw palmetto (2.3%), ginseng (1.9%), and lecithin (1.7%).  Unfortunately, the researchers did not collect information on doses of these supplements, just their use.

When looking at the role of non-vitamin, non-mineral supplement use and health, they found significant health benefits up to the 10-year follow-up exam.  Specifically, those using non-vitamin, non-mineral supplements regularly had a 26% decreased risk of death compared to those who did not use non-vitamin, non-mineral supplements.  The researchers acknowledge that it was not the supplements alone that produced these benefits, as those using supplements were also more active by the 15-year follow-up (62.4% of users were “sedentary” compared to 71.3% of non-users), consumed less alcohol (12.5% of users were at one time “heavy drinkers” compared to 14.2% of non-users), and took less medications (7.6 medications per user compared to 8.9 medications per non-user).

For the researchers, “In general, users of non-vitamin, non-mineral supplements had a healthier profile and were more likely to survive than non-users.”

Greg Arnold is a Chiropractic Physician practicing in Danville, CA.  You can contact Dr. Arnold directly by emailing him at mailto:PitchingDoc@msn.com or visiting his web site at www.CompleteChiropracticHealthcare.com

1. “Dietary Supplement Industry Analysis” posted on http://nutritionbusinessjournal.com/supplements/
2. “NOW Foods Commends Study Confirming Benefits Of Dietary Supplements” posted on www.nowfoods.com/M041663.htm?cat=NOW%20News
3. Prince RL. Effects of Calcium Supplementation on Clinical Fracture and Bone Structure. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166:869-875
4. Gupta P.  Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161:58-64
5. Bunin GR. Maternal Supplement, Micronutrient, and Cured Meat Intake during Pregnancy and Risk of Medulloblastoma during Childhood: A Children's Oncology Group Study. Cancer Epidemiol. Biomarkers Prev. 2006 15: 1660-1667
6. Chavarro JE. Use of multivitamins, intake of B vitamins, and risk of ovulatory infertility. Fert & Ster 2008: 89(3):668-676
7. Guillaume Machefer. Multivitamin-Mineral Supplementation Prevents Lipid Peroxidation during "The Marathon des Sables". J. Am. Coll. Nutr. 2007 26: 111-120
10. Dickinson A. Physicians and nurses use and recommend dietary supplements: report of a survey. Nutrition Journal 2009, 8:29 doi:10.1186/1475-2891-8-29
8. Knudston MD.  A Longitudinal Study of Non-vitamin, Non-mineral Supplement Use: Prevalence, Associations, and Survival in an Aging Population.  Ann Epidemiol. 2007 December ; 17(12): 933–939.