In a recent press release, the International Food Council (IFIC), revealed results from a survey titled, “Consumer Perspectives on Vitamins, Minerals, and Food and Beverage Fortification” which examines American perceptions about taking supplements. In the survey, 72% of Americans stated that they consider specific vitamins at least sometimes (22% consider them at all times) and 65% consider specific minerals at least sometimes (17% consider them always) when making those choices.

Of those who choose vitamins and minerals for their immune benefits, almost 50% reveal that doing so has become much more vital since the COVID-19 pandemic started. An additional 25% disclosed that this priority is at least somewhat more significant now. Among the 1,023 individuals aged 18 years and older interviewed from March 4 to March 8, 2021, 66% of respondents expressed interest in taking vitamin D.

Individuals aged 65 years and older were even more likely to say that they were looking for vitamin D, with 89% expressing interest compared with 53% of those below the age of 45 years. The survey results disclosed that an estimated 50% of female-identifying participants said they often searched for vitamin B12, which is greater than the 34% of male-identifying respondents who said the same. Regardless of age or gender, 62% of respondents said they sought out vitamin C, followed by vitamin B12 at 43%, calcium (41%), iron (33%), vitamin A (33%), and vitamin E (32%). Still, vitamins C and D were top choices, with respondents declaring they were interested in the vitamins for both general health and wellness and immune health.

The survey revealed that in spite of reliance on technology in many facets of our lives, individuals still prefer to get information on vitamins and minerals by researching the product label. Moreover, according to the survey, individuals with college degrees were more prone to obtain information on vitamin or mineral content on other websites or social media (15%, vs. 8% of individuals without college degrees). Those earning at least $80,000 per year were more likely to seek out information from other websites or social media accounts (18%, vs. just 9% of those who earn $40,000 to $79,000 and 8% who earn less than $40,000). The full survey can be found on the IFIC website.

In an interview on the health and nutrition website Eat This, Not That!, Ali Webster, PhD, RD, director of research and nutrition communications at the IFIC, said “Of those who prioritize immune health, half say that their focus on it has become much more important now than before the COVID-19 pandemic. I was somewhat surprised to see vitamins D and C jump to the top of the list of sought-after vitamins and minerals above more traditional options like calcium and iron. However, given the heightened emphasis we saw on immune health spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, it makes sense that people would focus on nutrients that they associate with this health benefit.”

Dr. Webster added that receiving a majority of vitamins and mineral via a healthy, balanced diet is optimal, but the use of nutritional supplements can be beneficial, especially for those unable to meet those through dietary means, such as those who follow a restrictive diet or have dietary restrictions caused by food allergies. It is also important for consumers to discuss the use of supplements with their pharmacist or primary healthcare providers to ascertain if any drug/nutrient interactions or contraindications exist.

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