Infrequent Older Adult–Primary Care Provider Discussion and Documentation of Dietary Supplements

David J. Jang, MD; Derjung M. Tarn, MD, PhD


J Am Geriatr Soc. 2014;62(7):1386-1388. 

In This Article


Patients who reported taking dietary supplements were mostly white (60%) and had a mean age of 64.6 ± 10.1, and 52.1% reported completing at least some college education. Sixty-six percent of women and 50% of men were taking supplements (P = .01).

Fifty-six percent (142/256) of the patients in the study reported taking at least one supplement and had their visit audio-recorded and their medical records abstracted. These patients reported taking a total of 448 supplements (mean 3.1 ± 2.4, range 1–18), of which 303 (67.6%) were vitamins and minerals and 145 (32.4%) were NVNM dietary supplements. Patients most frequently reported taking calcium with or without vitamin D (25.7%), fish oil or omega-3 (13.4%), and glucosamine or chondroitin (3.6%).

Fifty-nine (42%) of the 142 patients discussed at least one of their supplements during their office visit, and 58 (41%) had at least one supplement documented in their medical record, but only 7% discussed all of their supplements and only 13% had all of their supplements documented. Only 5% of patients mentioned all of their supplements during their office visit and had all of them documented. There was no association between the number of supplements patients were taking and supplement discussions or documentation.

Of the 448 dietary supplements that patients were taking, 16% (19% of vitamins and minerals and 10% of NVNM supplements; P = .02) were discussed during patients' visits and documented in their medical records (Figure 1). Thirteen percent of patients' supplements were discussed during office visits but were not noted in the medical record.

Figure 1.

Reported supplements discussed and documented (N = 448).