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Dietary Supplements Use in the Elderly

Tuesday, January 14, 2003 to Wednesday, January 15, 2003

NIA's Office of Nutrition—in conjunction with NIH's Office of Dietary Supplements—convened this 2-day advisory meeting. The meeting's goals were to: (1) review the current state-of-knowledge, and (2) suggest future research directions for this area.

Based on a survey conducted in 1999, it was estimated that at least 40 percent of older Americans used some form of herbal or specialty supplement during that year. Reasons for their use include maintenance of overall health, increase of energy, improving memory, preventing or treating illness, and slowing the aging process. The number of scientific studies on safety or efficacy of these products is limited because Food and Drug Administration approval is not required.

Meeting presentations covered three major areas:

  1. The "who," "what," and "why" of dietary supplement use in the elderly
  2. Special physiological/metabolic conditions of the elderly that might affect dietary supplement use
  3. Evidence-based studies on the use of dietary supplements to maintain health in various organ systems and prevent or ameliorate diseases and impairments of the elderly

Other NIH Institutes and Offices that contributed to this conference included the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine, National Eye Institute, National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Extramural support was contributed through the Foundation of the NIH. A summary of the conference is available through NIA's Web site, and further recommendations can be obtained from the program contact.

Contact Information 

Dr. Miroslaw Mackiewicz, DN