Dietary supplements are widely used around the world to improve health and well-being. With so many different supplements on the market, it can be difficult to know which ones are the most popular. In this article, we will explore the 10 most commonly taken dietary supplements among adults in the United States.
Multivitamins are by far the most popular supplement taken. According to surveys, around 31% of American adults take a multivitamin on a regular basis. Multivitamins contain a mixture of vitamins, minerals, and sometimes other ingredients like herbs or amino acids. The goal of a multivitamin is to fill in any nutritional gaps in a person’s diet and ensure they are getting enough of the essential micronutrients.
Some of the key vitamins and minerals found in multivitamins include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B12
Multivitamins are generally considered safe for most people. Taking a multivitamin can help provide nutritional insurance for those eating a poor diet or who are at risk of deficiency. However, it’s best to get vitamins and minerals primarily from food when possible.
Vitamin D supplements are the second most popular supplement, taken by around 19% of American adults. Vitamin D plays many important roles in immune function, bone health, growth, and more. It can be synthesized by the skin when exposed to sunlight, but many people still have low levels, especially in the winter or if living farther from the equator.
Studies suggest vitamin D deficiency is common, affecting around 41% of adults in the United States. Factors like obesity, older age, and darker skin tone can increase the risk of deficiency. Vitamin D supplements have been shown to raise blood levels into a sufficient range in those who are deficient.
The recommended daily intake for vitamin D is 600-800 IU (15-20 mcg). Most vitamin D supplements come in the form of either vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) or vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Vitamin D3 may be slightly more effective at raising vitamin D levels in the blood.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements are taken by around 13% of American adults. Omega-3s are essential fats with anti-inflammatory properties. The main omega-3s found in supplements are EPA and DHA, which come from fatty fish and fish oil.
Omega-3s have been extensively studied for their health benefits. Some research shows they can improve heart health by lowering triglycerides, reducing blood pressure, and decreasing risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Omega-3s may also benefit brain function and mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
Since many people don’t eat fatty fish regularly, supplements can help increase EPA and DHA intake. The American Heart Association recommends 1 gram per day of EPA/DHA for those with heart disease and at least 250-500 mg per day for general health.
Calcium is the fourth most commonly taken supplement, used by around 12% of American adults. Calcium is essential for bone health throughout life. It is also involved in muscle contraction, nerve transmission, and cardiovascular function.
Many Americans don’t meet the recommended dietary intake for calcium, which is 1,000-1,200 mg per day for adults. Inadequate calcium intake can increase the risk of fractures and osteoporosis. Calcium supplements can help fill this nutrient gap and preserve bone density.
Calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are the most common forms found in supplements. Calcium carbonate needs to be taken with food for optimal absorption, while calcium citrate can be taken anytime.
Vitamin C supplements are used by around 7% of American adults. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C is an essential nutrient and antioxidant. It’s found in fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits, peppers, and leafy greens.
Vitamin C supplements may be taken to reduce severity and duration of colds. While vitamin C doesn’t appear to prevent colds, some studies show regular supplementation slightly reduces cold symptom duration and severity in certain populations.
Vitamin C also helps absorb iron from foods. Those at risk of iron deficiency may benefit from taking vitamin C with iron-rich foods to increase absorption. The recommended daily intake of vitamin C is 75-90 mg per day for adults.
B Vitamin Complex
Around 5% of American adults take B vitamin complex supplements. B vitamins include thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), biotin (B7), folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12).
B vitamins play many important roles in energy production, brain function, mood, heart health, and more. Some medications and health conditions can make people prone to B vitamin deficiency.
A B complex supplement can provide adequate amounts of all the B vitamins in just one pill. Athletes, vegans, and the elderly are some examples of groups who may benefit from B vitamin complex supplementation if deficient.
Vitamin B12 supplements are used by around 5% of adults in America. B12 is a very important nutrient, especially for mental health and brain function. It’s mainly found in animal foods.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common in the elderly, vegetarians, and those with conditions affecting B12 absorption. Deficiency can cause anemia, memory problems, fatigue, and neurological symptoms.
Supplements containing B12 as cyanocobalamin or methylcobalamin can effectively treat and prevent B12 deficiency. Even those not deficient in B12 may potentially benefit from supplementation to keep levels optimal.
About 4% of American adults take probiotic supplements. Probiotics contain beneficial live microorganisms similar to the trillions of bacteria naturally found in the intestines. Common probiotic strains include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species.
Probiotics have been extensively studied for their health effects. Strong evidence suggests probiotics may help treat diarrhea, IBS symptoms, eczema, vaginal health, and more. They may also support overall immune function and digestive health.
Probiotics are considered very safe for most people when used short-term. They can be taken as capsules, powders, or in fermented foods and drinks like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, etc.
Around 4% of American adults take supplemental fish oil. Fish oil provides the omega-3 fats EPA and DHA. Omega-3 rich fatty fish like salmon and mackerel are the best dietary sources.
Fish oil is linked to many health benefits, often similar to omega-3 supplements. It may help prevent heart disease, fight inflammation, and support brain health. Fish oil may also benefit fetal development when taken during pregnancy.
When looking for a quality fish oil, check for purity and for levels of EPA and DHA per serving. Cod liver oil is another supplemental source of omega-3s, as well as vitamin A and vitamin D.
Around 4% of adults in the U.S. take coenzyme Q10 supplements. Also known as CoQ10, this compound plays a role in energy production and acts as an antioxidant. It’s synthesized naturally in the body.
Some research indicates CoQ10 supplementation may improve heart health and blood sugar control, enhance athletic performance, and reduce migraine frequency. However, more research is needed to confirm some of these purported benefits.
Those on statin medications should be particularly interested in CoQ10, as statins can reduce natural levels. However, always talk to a doctor before using CoQ10 to avoid interactions with medications.
Multivitamins, vitamin D, omega-3s, calcium, and vitamin C are clearly the most popular supplements among American adults. Vitamin B complex, vitamin B12, probiotics, fish oil, and CoQ10 are other common choices.
Supplement use is often higher in certain groups like the elderly, vegetarians, and those with health conditions or nutrient deficiencies. While supplements can fill nutritional gaps in some instances, it’s ideal to meet nutrient needs through a balanced whole food diet when possible.
Research on supplements is constantly evolving. Those who are considering a new supplement should first talk to their healthcare provider to check for safety and potential interactions. When taken properly, certain supplements can have benefits for filling nutritional gaps and maintaining health.
|Percent of Adults Who Use
|Vitamin B complex
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