Health Fact Sheets
Use of nutritional supplements, 2015

Release date: June 20, 2017

Nutritional supplements are widely available to Canadians and many people supplement their diet with nutritional products such as vitamins, minerals, fibre supplements, antacids, and fish oils. In 2015, the Canadian Community Health Survey - Nutrition asked Canadians aged one year and older about the type and amount of nutritional supplements they consumed in the past month.

Past-month use of nutritional supplements by age group and sex

Health Canada advises that a healthy and balanced diet can provide most people with the nutrients essential for good health.Note 1 Supplements are recommended for specific circumstances, such as vitamin D for persons over the age of 50.Note 2 The use of nutritional supplements is an everyday practice for millions of Canadians.

In 2015, 45.6% of Canadians aged one year and older (approximately 15.7 million people) used at least one nutritional supplement.

About 45% of children aged 1 to 3 years and 4 to 8 years old took nutritional supplements. Supplement use then decreased to 36.8% among 9 to 13 year olds. For teenagers aged 14 to 18, 26.5% of males and 32.9% of females used supplements - the lowest prevalence among all age groups for both sexes. After entering adulthood, the percentage of people taking nutritional supplements increased with age. Nutritional supplement use was more common among Canadian adults aged 19 and over (47.3%) than among children and youth (38.5%). Women were more likely than men to take nutritional supplements, with the most notable difference among those aged 51 to 70 years, where almost two-thirds (65.1%) of women used supplements compared with 42.5% of men (Chart 1).

Chart 1

Data table for Chart 1
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1. The information is grouped by Age group (appearing as row headers), Male and Female, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age group Male Female
All age 38.3 52.6
1 to 3 40.4 49.6
4 to 8 47.2 44.0
9 to 13 36.6 37.0
14 to 18 26.5 32.9
19 to 30 31.0 45.0
31 to 50 35.2 47.9
51 to 70 42.5 65.1
71 and older 51.0 67.8

Use of nutritional supplements in the provinces

Canadians living in the west were more likely than those in the east to take a nutritional supplement in 2015 (Chart 2).

Compared with the national average, for both children and adults, the prevalence of using nutritional supplements was higher in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. The highest rate of using supplements was in Alberta, both among children and teenagers at 54.1%, and among adults at 55.1%. Quebec and the Atlantic provinces had lower than national average rates of using nutritional supplements. The lowest rates were in Quebec, at 22.1% for children and teenagers, and 33.0 % for adults.

Chart 2

Data table for Chart 2
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2. The information is grouped by Province (appearing as row headers), 1 to 18 years and 19 years and over, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Province 1 to 18 years 19 years and over
Canada 38.5 47.3
Newfoundland and Labrador 32.2 35.5
Prince Edward Island 25.4 39.7
Nova Scotia 26.4 43.3
New Brunswick 34.3 46.1
Quebec 22.1 33.0
Ontario 41.6 52.1
Manitoba 39.5 46.8
Saskatchewan 43.2 50.2
Alberta 54.1 55.1
British Columbia 44.4 53.9

Comparison with 2004 Canadian Community Health Survey - Nutrition

The 2015 Canadian Community Health Survey - Nutrition is a national health survey that collects information from Canadians in all provinces about their eating habits and use of nutritional supplements, as well as other health factors. This survey was last done in 2004. In 2004, information about vitamins and mineral supplements was collected. In 2015, information collected was expanded to cover a wider range of supplements than in 2004. As a result, direct comparisons between surveys can be made only for the types of products and nutrients that were collected in both surveys.

Multivitamins are defined as nutritional supplements that contain at least three vitamins and may or may not contain minerals.Note 3 Multivitamins were the most common nutritional supplement products used by Canadians in both 2004 and 2015. Nearly a quarter (23.1%) of Canadians consumed at least one multivitamin supplement in 2015, compared with 26.5% in 2004.

Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats, meaning the body cannot make them and they must be consumed. They play important roles in growth and development, especially visual and neurological development. Awareness of their importance has increased since the 1980s.Note 4Note 5 Supplement products containing Omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish oils and flaxseed oils, were used by 11.8% of Canadians in 2015. There are no comparable data available for 2004.

Vitamin D and calcium are important for bone strength and to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures in older adults. Health Canada indicates that the need for vitamin D increases after the age of 50.Note 2 Use of nutritional supplements containing vitamin D increased from 28.5% in 2004 to 33.5% in 2015. The increase was most apparent for adults aged 31 to 50 (25.0% to 29.7%), aged 51 to 70 (36.5% to 40.7%) and aged 70 and older (36.9% to 45.8%).

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