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Abstract

The use of food supplements continues to grow in France, even though it is beingdiscouraged by the main health and medical authorities. The ambiguous definitionssurrounding these products make it difficult to measure their consumption. Using aqualitative survey based on interviews (n= 31) of consumers aged 60 to 75 years, thispaper explores the ways in which this consumption is increasing. It traces the adoptionof food supplementation in this age group back to life-course events, relating to healthin particular. Using the practice theory, three forms of supplementation are identifiedaccording to the norms, products, sources of medical prescription and purposes at play.The first form is dependent on orthodox medical prescription having been taken; thesupplements are prescribed by a doctor and considered by the consumer to be almostlike medicinal products. The second form is linked to heterodox‘natural’therapies;products are most often based on plants and considered to be traditional remedies. Thethird form is related to a heterodox micronutritional approach, claiming to be scientif-ically advanced; products are identified as food supplements, and their consumptionreflected a strategy of prevention, or even health optimisation in ageing. The affinitiesbetween these supplementation forms and the individuals’social characteristics arediscussed. Results suggest that common consumer categories should be better integrat-ed in the measurement of food supplement consumption.

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