Differences by Race/Ethnicity in Older Adults' Beliefs about the Relative Importance of Dietary Supplements vs Prescription Medications: Results from the SURE Study


      Dietary supplement use is widespread among adults across races/ethnicities, yet reasons for use can vary across these groups. The Supplement Reporting (SURE) study quantified dietary supplement use and reasons for taking supplements in a multiethnic sample of adults who took at least one supplement. This study explored sociodemographic differences, including by race/ethnicity, associated with specific reasons/motivations for taking dietary supplements, including perceived importance of taking supplements relative to prescription medications. The study time period was March 2005 to August 2006. Participants (n=397) were older adults (ages 52 to 88 years) recruited from the Multiethnic Cohort Study in Hawaii and Los Angeles, CA, with equal representation of males and females from six ethnic groups (ie, white, Japanese American, Native Hawaiian, African American, US-born Latino, and foreign-born Latino). Subgroups of participants were compared by χ2 tests and logistic regression. The most common reasons for taking supplements were to maintain a healthy life, because they were recommended by a health professional, and to prevent a disease/medical problem. A majority (76%) of participants reported that their dietary supplements were as important as prescription medications, with foreign-born Latinos and Japanese Americans being most likely to state this belief. The relative importance of supplements was not associated with excessive use, but 27% of participants exceeded the upper limit for a nutrient. It is crucial for health professionals to better understand why individuals take supplements and the importance that they attach to their use. This information could lead to better monitoring and education efforts to prevent overuse of supplements and possible interactions with medications.


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      C. L. Albright is an associate professor, School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene and Prevention and Control Program, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu.


      S. M. Schembre is a junior researcher, Prevention and Control Program, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, and Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.


      A. D. Steffen is an assistant professor, Office of Public Health Studies, John A. Burns School of Medicine, Honolulu, HI.


      L. R. Wilkens is a professor, Epidemiology Program, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu.


      K. M. Yonemori is a research dietitian/nutritionist, Epidemiology Program, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu.


      S. P. Murphy is professor emeritus, Epidemiology Program, University of Hawaii Cancer Center, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu.


      K. R. Monroe is an assistant professor, Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.