Sensitivity and specificity of self-reported use of dietary supplements

Eur J Clin Nutr. 2004 Dec;58(12):1669-71. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602021.


Objective: To evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of a self-administered food frequency questionnaire (FFQ)-used in a cohort of 48,000 men to determine dietary supplement use.

Design: Questionnaire data regarding use of dietary supplements were compared with 14 24-h recall interviews spread over a year.

Setting and subjects: A random sample of 248 middle-aged and elderly Swedish men was included in the analysis.

Results and conclusions: Use of any supplement in at least one interview was reported by 51% (in three or more interviews by 38%). Sensitivity and specificity of the FFQ regarding any supplement use was 78 and 93%, respectively. Sensitivity for multivitamins, vitamins C and E was 69, 67 and 78%, respectively. The sensitivity increased to 93% and the specificity decreased to 88% when a user was defined as a person reporting use in at least three interviews.

Conclusions: Dietary supplement use might be measured by a self-administered questionnaire relatively well especially when supplements are used more regularly.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Dietary Supplements / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Surveys and Questionnaires / standards*
  • Vitamins / administration & dosage*


  • Vitamins