Nutrition :: Elderly People and Their Views on Supplements and Medical Care

Elderly people who use herbal supplements are less satisfied with conventional medical care than non-users and often do not tell their physicians they are combining supplements with prescription drugs, according to a survey conducted by researchers at Northern Illinois University.

Of 69 older people surveyed, 35 said they used supplements, including garlic, glucosamine, gingko biloba and fish oil. Nearly one-fourth of herbal supplement users reported their doctor did not know they were taking supplements. Of 26 who combined supplements with prescription drugs, six (23 percent) said they were doing so without medical supervision.

Supplement users were significantly less likely to be satisfied with medical care, supporting studies that have found alternative medicine users are dissatisfied with conventional medicine due to ineffectiveness of treatments, the researchers write. Given that there is increased risk of drug-supplement interaction among elderly persons, it is important that health-care professionals be aware that older patients may be supplementing their prescribed medications with herbal preparations.

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