Popping a Pill to Supplement Your Diet

Dietary supplements were found to be used by approximately two thirds of adults between 2007 and 2011

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Dietary supplements like calcium and fish oil are commonly used by many adults and may be seen as a part of a healthy lifestyle, according to new research.

The recent study found that approximately two-thirds of adults surveyed used dietary supplements during the five-year study period, and the most common reason for their use was for overall health and wellness.

The study authors noted that use of dietary supplements may serve as a part of a healthy lifestyle.

"Speak with your physician before taking a new dietary supplement."

This study was led by Annette Dickinson, PhD, with Dickinson Consulting, LLC. The research team examined use of dietary supplements among adults, the reasons for their usage of these supplements, and the most popular supplements taken.

Data was analyzed from surveys between 2007-2011 conducted by the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade association of the dietary supplement industry. The surveys included approximately 2,000 adults each year who were at least 18 years of age and resided in the United States (excluding Hawaii and Alaska).

In the survey, participants were asked about their use of dietary supplements defined as “vitamins, minerals, herbals, botanicals, sports nutrition or other specialty supplements.” Response options included:

  • not currently and never have taken supplements
  • have in the past but no longer do
  • only take them in specific seasons
  • occasionally when I think of it or as the need arises
  • regularly take

Participants who reported at least a seasonal use of supplements were asked to record which supplements they used from an established list.

The list included 10 vitamin or mineral products (multivitamins, calcium, vitamin D, and iron), 14 specialty supplements (omega-3 or fish oil, fiber, or soy protein), 10 botanicals/plant-based supplements (green tea, gingko biloba, or cranberry), and nine sports nutrition supplements (protein bars, energy drinks, or protein powders).

Participants were then asked to record why they were taking supplements with some response options including: overall health and wellness, immune health, bone health, heart health, disease prevention, for hair, skin, and nails, digestive health, stress management, weight management, eye health, and mental functioning.

Finally participants were presented with several statements to learn about their other health habits. Some of the statements included:

  • “I try to eat a balanced diet.”
  • “I visit my doctor regularly.”
  • “I regularly get a good night’s sleep.”
  • “I exercise regularly.”
  • “I smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products.”

Participants had to rate their level of agreement with each statement ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree.

The researchers found that the percentage of adults using supplements ranged from 64 to 69 percent between 2007-2011 — with a low of 64 percent in 2008 to a high of 69 percent in 2011. In 2011, multivitamins were the most common supplement taken with 71 percent of supplement users reporting multivitamin use, followed by 33 percent reporting omega-3 or fish oil use, and 32 percent reporting use of calcium supplements.

The most popular reasons stated for using supplements were for overall health and wellness (stated by 58 percent of supplement users) and to fill nutrient gaps (stated by 42 percent of supplement users).

Based on their findings, the study authors concluded that dietary supplement users are more likely than non-users to be engaged in healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet and may be undertaken as a part of a healthy lifestyle.

This study was published on April 14 in the Journal of American College Nutrition.

Some of the study authors are affiliated with the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade association for the dietary supplement industry.

Review Date: 
April 19, 2014
Last Updated:
April 21, 2014