BACKGROUND: Dietary supplement use is common in older US adults; however, data on health risks and benefits are lacking for a number of supplements.

OBJECTIVE: We evaluated whether 10-y average intakes of 13 vitamin and mineral supplements and glucosamine, chondroitin, saw palmetto, Ginko biloba, garlic, fish-oil, and fiber supplements were associated with total mortality.

DESIGN: We conducted a prospective cohort study of Washington State residents aged 50-76 y during 2000-2002. Participants (n = 77,719) were followed for mortality for an average of 5 y.

RESULTS: A total of 3577 deaths occurred during 387,801 person-years of follow-up. None of the vitamin or mineral 10-y average intakes were associated with total mortality. Among the nonvitamin-nonmineral supplements, only glucosamine and chondroitin were associated with total mortality. The hazard ratio (HR) when persons with a high intake of supplements (> or =4 d/wk for > or =3 y) were compared with nonusers was 0.83 (95% CI: 0.72, 0.97; P for trend = 0.009) for glucosamine and 0.83 (95% CI: 0.69, 1.00; P for trend = 0.011) for chondroitin. There was also a suggestion of a decreased risk of total mortality associated with a high intake of fish-oil supplements (HR: 0.83; 95% CI: 0.70, 1.00), but the test for trend was not statistically significant.

CONCLUSIONS: For most of the supplements we examined, there was no association with total mortality. Use of glucosamine and use of chondroitin were each associated with decreased total mortality.