Nutritional supplements aren’t just good for your health. They are also good for your pocketbook and could save on health care costs into the billions of dollars, according to an economic report titled, "Smart Prevention—Health Care Cost Savings Resulting from the Targeted Use of Dietary Supplements," funded by a grant from the Council for Responsible Nutrition Foundation (CRN).
The report by Frost & Sullivan for the CRN says that supplement use can save on health care costs by reducing the need for many health care services and hospital stays for the target group studied, which included Americans age 55 or older who were diagnosed with one or more of the chronic health conditions listed below and who took one of the eight supplements listed below.
The report reviewed eight supplement categories and their abilities to reduce the risks of four specific health conditions, which included:
- Omega-3s, B vitamins, plant sterols and psyllium dietary fiber for heart health;
- Lutein and zeaxanthin for eye health;
- Chromium picolinate for coronary heart problems & induced blood sugar management conditions; and
- Calcium, vitamin D and magnesium for bone health.
He explained that after accounting for the survey’s economic model to the risk reduction assessments in each category, the estimated cost savings were astounding.
“We were able to look at insurance data and determine what a single fracture event related to osteoporosis costs, and it is over $14,000. When you look at the number of people who could reduce their risk and the medical events we could avoid, you could save over $1.5 billion a year with a calcium vitamin D supplement regimen,” he said.
In addition, Mister reported supplements containing plant sterols could potentially save on health care costs as much as $3.3 billion per year.
The study found that high-risk populations can reduce their incidences of medical events related to their chronic health conditions by taking supplements at preventive intake levels. The associated potential to save on health care costs could add up to billions of dollars. Some experts believe the savings could even reach into the trillions when you consider the vast number of different benefits that the various supplements provide.
Here are summaries of the survey’s findings and the potential dollars the U.S. could save on health care costs if people age 55 and older who were diagnosed with the following health conditions took the noted supplements as preventive measures:
- The use of omega-3 supplements among adults age 55 and over who have coronary heart conditions could reduce annual hospital costs by more than $2 billion on average, saving the health care system close to $16.5 billion between 2013 and 2020. Notably, vitamin D would also dramatically lower the costs of heart-related medical events as it has profound benefits in cardiac health. However, the authors did not factor this in to this report.
- The use of vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 supplements in the 55 and older age group could reduce hospital costs by an average of more than $1.5 billion per year, which could add up to $12.1 billion in health care savings between 2013 and 2020.
- The use of phytosterol supplements by all U.S. adults age 55 and over who have chronic heart conditions could result in an average savings of $4.23 billion per year, which equates to $34 billion from 2013 to 2020 in reduced hospitalization costs. After accounting for the costs of supplementation utilization, the net savings from phytosterol supplement use at preventive levels by the target group would be approximately $3.32 billion per year from 2013 to 2020.
- The use of psyllium dietary fiber supplements by the target group of people age 55 and older with CHD could potentially save an average of $4.38 billion per year from reduced hospital utilization costs. This equates to a savings of $35.05 billion from 2013 to 2020. After accounting for psyllium supplement utilization costs, the net savings in health care costs from psyllium supplement use at preventive levels by this target group would be about $2.48 billion annually from 2013 to 2020.
- The use of chromium picolinate supplements to reduce type 2 diabetes-related CHD among adults age 55 and over who have both diabetes and CHD could result in an annual average savings of more than $1.2 billion, which equates to $9.75 billion in savings between 2013 and 2020. To arrive at these figures, the report calculated that the annual average cost was $16,690 per person for a CHD-related event. Again, it’s worth noting that these figures would be much higher if the review included the well-documented benefits of vitamin D for this health condition.
Age-related eye conditions:
- The use of lutein and zeaxanthin supplements by all Americans age 55 and over with age-related eye conditions would potentially save on health care costs a total of $57.4 million per year. In addition, another $3.81 billion could be saved annually from reduced direct medical costs and post-procedure assisted living costs related to cataracts.
- The use of calcium and vitamin D supplements by all women over the age of 55 with osteoporosis could save on health care costs an average of $1.87 billion annually from hospitalization that could be avoided. The net savings in annual health care costs after factoring in supplement utilization costs would be more than $1.5 billion.
- The use of magnesium supplements at preventive dosage levels could result in an average of $851 million savings per year in avoidable hospital costs. After factoring in magnesium supplementation utilization costs, the net savings in health care costs associated with bone conditions could total more than $595 million per year.
“Chronic [health conditions] take a huge toll on people’s quality of life, and the healthcare system spends a tremendous amount of money treating [them] but has failed to focus on ways to reduce those costs through prevention,” Mister explained.
“We already knew that the dietary supplements identified in the report can play a role in reducing the risk of certain chronic [conditions]; we felt compelled to find out if they could also contribute to healthcare cost savings by reducing the medical events associated with those conditions. This new report says emphatically that they do.