Vitamin Supplementation Very Common
~ June 2000 No.103 ~
We all are trying to eat healthy diets, by cutting down of the total amount of fat we eat, avoiding hydrogenated oils, eating more bread and pasta and including more fruits and vegetables in our diets. If we have enough time to plan our grocery shopping and enough time to do our own cooking, it is easy to prepare nutritious meals. But life is very hectic, and more and more meals are eaten away from home, where we often have no control about which oil was added to our salad or whether the spread on our bread is butter or margarine.
A group from the National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, US Public Health Service has recently published an article that indicates that close to 49% of Americans regularly take a vitamin or mineral supplements. It was not possible to ask why so many people felt it necessary to add supplements to their diet, but concerns about health, and consumers’ desire to be more pro-active when it comes to their nutrition/health may be two reasons. More females than males use supplements (43.8% vs 34.9%), and the use of supplements increased with increases in income level and level of education. Besides traditional vitamin and mineral supplements, respondents that took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (1988-1994) reported that they has also taken less well known (and less well documented) supplements.
An analysis of the composition of the vitamin supplements that were being consumed revealed that only 66.8 % of young women of reproductive age were receiving additional folic acid. This is in spite of the fact that there is well documented evidence that women who have poor folic acid status in the first weeks of pregnancy have a high incidence of babies born with birth defects.
The growing use of self-prescribed supplements places new responsibilities in the hands of the consumer and the family physician. Doctors have to include questions about supplement usage during patient interviews, to avoid cross-reactions with other prescriptions, and to encourage high risk patients - such as women of reproductive age - to ensure proper intake of certain critical nutrients. Consumers on their part need to do as much research as they can before starting on a supplement regime, and to seek professional advise before they alter their diet or add supplements.
Archives of Family Medicine 2000,9:258-262