NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. – 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%). 

“Older Americans face serious health issues, such as malnutrition, because they take numerous medications and, oftentimes, do not follow a healthy diet.  Many seniors live alone and may not cook frequently.  They have much to gain by smart supplementation to their diets,” said David Seckman.  “Taking supplements plays an important role in meeting the daily recommended vitamin and mineral intake, and health authorities recommend that at minimum, older Americans should take a multi-vitamin on a daily basis.”

StrategyOne conducted the nationwide survey of 736 adults aged 50 or older via telephone October 10 to October 17, 2001 using a Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) facility and Random Digit Dialing (RDD) technology.  StrategyOne’s Washington, D.C. office analyzed the data.

Headquartered in Newport Beach, Calif., NNFA is the nation’s largest and oldest non-profit organization dedicated to promoting and advancing the natural products industry. The organization is made up of nearly 4,000 retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health and beauty aids. NNFA has eight regional offices throughout the United States and is governed by a 22-member board of directors representing all parts of the industry.

StrategyOne is a national, full-service public opinion research and strategic communications agency and a subsidiary of Edelman Public Relations Worldwide with offices in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago, Ill.