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Supplementing food for health: Practices amongst French adults aged 60 to 75 years

Lepiller O., Cazes-Valette G.. 2018. Review of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Studies, 99 (3-4) : p. 253-279.

DOI: 10.1007/s41130-018-0080-y

The use of food supplements continues to grow in France, even though it is being discouraged by the main health and medical authorities. The ambiguous definitions surrounding these products make it difficult to measure their consumption. Using a qualitative survey based on interviews (n¿=¿31) of consumers aged 60 to 75 years, this paper explores the ways in which this consumption is increasing. It traces the adoption of food supplementation in this age group back to life-course events, relating to health in particular. Using the practice theory, three forms of supplementation are identified according to the norms, products, sources of medical prescription and purposes at play. The first form is dependent on orthodox medical prescription having been taken; the supplements are prescribed by a doctor and considered by the consumer to be almost like medicinal products. The second form is linked to heterodox 'natural' therapies; products are most often based on plants and considered to be traditional remedies. The third form is related to a heterodox micronutritional approach, claiming to be scientifically advanced; products are identified as food supplements, and their consumption reflected a strategy of prevention, or even health optimisation in ageing. The affinities between these supplementation forms and the individuals' social characteristics are discussed. Results suggest that common consumer categories should be better integrated in the measurement of food supplement consumption.

Mots-clés : france

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