Wading through the quagmire: making sense of dietary supplement utilization

Nutr Rev. 2004 Jul;62(7 Pt 1):276-82. doi: 10.1301/nr.2004.jul.276-282.


Since the 1980s, numerous studies conducted in the United States have attempted to estimate the prevalence of supplement use among the population (e.g., the National Health and Nutrition Survey and the National Health Interview Surveys). Despite these efforts, the true extent of supplement use is unclear. The literature pertaining to the prevalence of supplement use refers to a confusing array of ambiguous terms. Forming accurate conclusions about supplement use is confounded by differences in terminology and methodology between studies. Direct comparisons between studies are therefore inherently problematic. The emphasis in future investigations should be on standardizing the study design; recording data on daily, weekly, or even monthly use in order to establish the safety and efficacy of supplement use; and adopting a consistent, uniform definition of the term supplement.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dietary Supplements / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Nutrition Surveys*
  • Prevalence
  • Safety
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States