Dietary supplements are used by more than half of adults, although to our knowledge, the reasons motivating use have not been previously examined in US adults using nationally representative data. The purpose of this analysis was to examine motivations for dietary supplement use, characterize the types of products used for the most commonly reported motivations, and to examine the role of physicians and health care practitioners in guiding choices about dietary supplements.
Data from adults (≥20 years; n = 11 956) were examined in the 2007-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationally representative, cross-sectional, population-based survey.
The most commonly reported reasons for using supplements were to “improve” (45%) or “maintain” (33%) overall health. Women used calcium products for “bone health” (36%), whereas men were more likely to report supplement use for “heart health or to lower cholesterol” (18%). Older adults (≥60 years) were more likely than younger individuals to report motivations related to site-specific reasons like heart, bone and joint, and eye health. Only 23% of products were used based on recommendations of a health care provider. Multivitamin-mineral products were the most frequently reported type of supplement taken, followed by calcium and ω-3 or fish oil supplements. Supplement users are more likely to report very good or excellent health, have health insurance, use alcohol moderately, eschew cigarette smoking, and exercise more frequently than nonusers.
Supplement users reported motivations related to overall health more commonly than for supplementing nutrients from food intakes. Use of supplements was related to more favorable health and lifestyle choices. Less than a quarter of supplements used by adults were recommended by a physician or health care provider.