More than half of adults in the United States now take at least one dietary supplement, usually a multivitamin, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report, which examined surveys of 18,504 adults between 1988 and 1994 and 9,432 adults from 2003 to 2006, showed an increase in supplement consumption between these two periods from about 40 percent to more than 50 percent. In particular, the survey found that use of calcium supplements had increased from 28.2 percent in 1988-94 to 61 percent in 2003 to 2006. The report noted that most adults and teenagers (with the exception of girls between the ages of nine and 18) likely receive enough calcium through their diets and from supplements. The survey also found an increase in the number of Americans who are taking vitamin D supplements - according to the report, 56.3 percent of women over 60 take vitamin D.
My take: It's gratifying to learn that more people are becoming health conscious and are attempting to improve their well being through micro-nutrition. But it's important to remember that the rationale for taking supplements in the first place is as insurance against nutritional gaps in the diet. Ideally, a well balanced diet should supply most of your nutritional needs, but many people, for a variety of reasons, don't eat optimally on a regular basis. Also, modern, chemically intensive growing methods may deplete nutrients. If you use drugs like alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine or if you're sick or under stress, your body's requirements for some micronutrients and protective phytonutrients may be higher than your diet can supply. Because of these variables, a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement can help ensure that you are getting what you need.
On the flipside, it is also important to remember that vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements won't make up for a diet lacking in fresh fruits and vegetables. If you take supplements, think of them as insurance, not as a way to excuse unhealthy eating habits.
Learn what vitamins I take: Dr. Weil's Personal Vitamin Routine