Evaluation of a simplified vitamin supplement inventory developed for the Women's Health Initiative

Public Health Nutr. 1999 Sep;2(3):273-6. doi: 10.1017/s1368980099000361.


Objective: To evaluate the accuracy of a simplified inventory procedure for assessing nutrient intake from vitamin and mineral supplements.

Design: Participants brought their supplements to a clinic. An interviewer conducted the supplement inventory procedure, which consisted of recording data on the type of multiple vitamin and single supplements used. For the multiple vitamins, the interviewer recorded the exact dose for a subset of nutrients (vitamin C, calcium, selenium). For other nutrients, we imputed the dose in multiple vitamins. The dose of all single supplements was recorded. Labels of the supplements were photocopied and we transcribed the exact nutrient label data for the criterion measure. Spearman correlation coefficients were used to assess precision of nutrient intakes from the simplified inventory compared to the criterion measure.

Setting/subjects: Data are from 104 adult vitamin supplement users in Washington state.

Results: Correlation coefficients between nutrient intake estimated from the simplified inventory compared to the criterion measure were high (0.8-1.0) for those nutrients (vitamin C, calcium, selenium) for which the interviewer recorded the exact dose contained in multiple vitamins. However, for nutrients for which imputations were made regarding dose in multiple vitamins, correlation coefficients ranged from good (0.8 for vitamin E) to poor (0.3 for iron).

Conclusions: The simplified inventory is rapid (4-5 min) and practical for large-scale studies. The precision of nutrient estimates using this procedure was variable, although excellent for the subset of nutrients for which the dose was recorded exactly. This study illustrates many of the challenges of collecting high quality supplement data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dietary Supplements*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Minerals / administration & dosage*
  • Nutrition Surveys*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage*


  • Minerals
  • Vitamins