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Dietary Supplement Use among Older Persons

Neuherberg, 05.12.2013. Many older people are ingesting too much magnesium and vitamin E in the form of dietary supplements. This was discovered by scientists of the Helmholtz Zentrum München in a population-based study; their results have been published in 'The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging'

Dietary Supplement Use among Older Persons

Image: Sigrid Schwab, Dr. Barbara Thorand (Source: Helmholtz Zentrum München)

The scientists working with Sigrid Schwab, Priv.-Doz. Dr. Barbara Thorand and Professor Dr. Annette Peters from the Institute of Epidemiology II (EPI II) at the Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) investigated the prevalence of dietary supplement use in the general population and determined daily intake amounts of ingested vitamins and minerals in supplement users.

The data are derived from the KORA-Age Study, which examines the association between lifestyle factors and health status in people aged 65 years or older in the area of Augsburg, Germany. Roughly 54 percent of the women and 34 percent of the men over 64 years of age take dietary supplements or medications containing vitamins, minerals or other substances such as omega-3 fatty acids or coenzyme Q10. In addition to the sex, the frequency of ingestion is associated with the level of education, physical activity, smoking habits and presence of a neurological disease. In women, the most frequently supplemented substances are magnesium and vitamin D, while in men they are magnesium and vitamin E. In both sexes, it was observed that the ingested doses of magnesium and vitamin E frequently exceed the Tolerable Upper Intake Levels established by the European Food Safety Authority. The administered supplement quantities were too high in 20 percent of the female and 33 percent of the male participants regularly taking magnesium and in 8 and 14 percent, respectively, of the participants regularly taking vitamin E. In contrast, vitamin D, whose supplementation is frequently medically recommended in this age group because of its positive effect on bone metabolism, was taken by relatively few older people, the scientists reported.

"Current and population-based data on the intake of supplements in older people are largely missing for Europe. Nevertheless, this population group is of special interest due to the age-related nutrient deficits", says Prof. Peters, Director of EPI II. "Industry and advertising appear to have a large influence on the selection of the preparations. Results such as these are therefore important in order to make it possible to give meaningful recommendations on dietary supplements for older people."The aim of the KORA-Age Study is to identify factors associated with healthy and contented aging and to support the active participation of older people in social life. Original publication: Schwab, S. et al. (2013), The Use of Dietary Supplements among Older Persons in Southern Germany – Results from the KORA-Age Study, The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging; DOI 10.1007/s12603-013-0418-8

Further Information

Original Publication:
Schwab, S. et al. (2013), The Use of Dietary Supplements among Older Persons in Southern Germany – Results from the KORA-Age Study, The Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, DOI number: 10.1007/s12603-013-0418-8

Link to publication

As German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum München pursues the goal of developing personalized medical approaches for the prevention and therapy of major common diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung diseases. To achieve this, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München has about 2,100 staff members and is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. Helmholtz Zentrum München is a member of the Helmholtz Association, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with a total of about 34,000 staff members. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de  www.helmholtz-muenchen.de

The Institute of Epidemiology II (EPI II) focuses on the assessment of environmental and lifestyle risk factors which jointly affect major chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and mental health. Research builds on the unique resources of the KORA cohort, the KORA myocardial infarction registry, and the KORA aerosol measurement station. Aging-related phenotypes have been added to the KORA research portfolio within the frame of the Research Consortium KORA-Age. The institute’s contributions are specifically relevant for the population as modifiable personal risk factors are being researched that could be influenced by the individual or by improving legislation for the protection of public health.

For more than 20 years, the research platform Cooperative Health Research in the Augsburg Region (KORA) has been collecting and analyzing data on the health of thousands of people living in the Augsburg region. The objective is to elucidate the effects of environmental factors, behavior and genes. KORA focuses on the development and course of chronic diseases, in particular myocardial infarction and diabetes mellitus. Risk factors are analyzed with regard to individual health behavior (e.g. smoking, diet, exercise), environmental factors (e.g. air pollution, noise) and genetics. From the perspective of health care research, questions regarding the utilization of health care resources and the cost of health care are also studied. www.helmholtz-muenchen.de/kora

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Contact for the media
Communication Department, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany - Phone: +49-89-3187-2238 - Fax: 089-3187-3324 - EMail: presse@helmholtz-muenchen.de

Scientific contact
Priv.-Doz. Dr. Barbara Thorand, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Institute of Epidemiology II, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany – Phone: +49-89-3187-4480 -