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While research into the effectiveness of supplement use is common, it's not as plentiful or diverse as many supplement companies would wish. There simply isn't enough research about the adherence of people to their supplement regimen, and determining how many supplements are actually taken from each bottle is difficult to determine. Many studies rely on self-reporting, and as such, may not be as precise or correct. Other studies concentrate on a small sector of the population and only deliver results about the effectiveness of supplements on those participants' individual needs.
We've compiled information from four studies about supplements and who is taking them, and on what schedule.
This study concentrates on people who were released from hospital treatment and subsequently recommended to take oral nutritional supplements. This study contained a fairly even mix of men and women, with the mean age of 67 ± 13 years. The study participants were mainly hospitalized due to either malignancy or digestive system disease.
When given the supplements, ¾ of the study participants agreed that these were good for their health. This, plus the fact that these supplements were recommended by a licensed nurse, may be the reason that 80% reported they complied with the daily schedule of supplement dosing.
However, this study only surveyed patients who had already been in the hospital, and even with a 13-year deviation form the mean age, this still puts the youngest participants in their mid-50s. A study with a greater range of ages may have revealed different results.
Patients who suffered from a lower limb fracture were the subjects fo this study. The participants consisted of 49 nutritionally "at‐risk" patients aged 70+ who were given nutritional supplements over a period of 42 days. Supplements were given to participants by clinical nurses in either an assisted living care setting or as part of visiting home health care in the patients' own homes.
The supplements were administered on a schedule established by medical practitioners, versus supplements that the patients themselves selected. Furthermore, patients were given the supplements at the correct times, the correct dosage, and were supervised taking them.
While the patines reported satisfaction with the supplements, there are a couple of things that stand out with this survey. First, all the participants were elderly, and second, they weren't responsible for taking the supplements at the right time on their own. Therefore deducting any conclusions regarding adherence are practically irrelevant from this research.
This study follows pregnant women in China following a supplement regimen. Participants followed Chinese guidelines concerning both high and low dosages of maternal micronutrient supplementation before and during pregnancy. More than 30,000 women were surveyed for this study, and a few thousand had inconclusive outcomes.
The study relied on self-reporting, versus supplements administered in a medical setting. Most women commonly took calcium as their preferred supplement, although some participants took more than one. Besides the fact that the study relied only on self-reporting, the participants were exclusively pregnant women and only from one county.
This study also concerned women taking supplements during pregnancy in Vietnam. For this research, the study aimed to determine predictors of adherence to preconception and prenatal micronutrient supplementation. Participants voluntarily took the supplements and survey attendants reported when and how much. This was a double-blind, randomized trial, and the women were given either Folic Acid, Iron and Folic Acid (IFA), or Multiple Micronutrients.
In this case, rather than rely on self-reporting, health care workers visited the women every two weeks to give them more supplements, check their health and that of the fetus, and then recorded their findings.
This study, however, has the same concerns as the third one, in that only pregnant women were studied and only form one county.
The effects of supplements can vary according to the health condition of the person taking them. Some conditions respond well to a particular kind of supplement, while others are unaffected. For other conditions, such as pregnancy, taking folic acid and other supplements is often recommended for the health of both mother and baby, as a pregnant woman has a greater need for certain vitamins and minerals during gestation than the general population. In addition, pregnant women are in high attention to their health as it also affects their fetus, examining their adherence rate probably does not represent the common population.
Looking at these studies, while the indications that supplement use can help improve the health of the individual taking them, more research is needed in order to find quantifiable results and reach conclusions that can be applied to a broader population.