Background: Dietary supplement use is increasing, but there are few comparable data on supplement intakes and how they affect the nutrition and health of European consumers. The aim of this study was to describe the use of dietary supplements in subsamples of the 10 countries participating in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC).
Methods: Specific questions on dietary supplement use were asked as a part of single 24-h recalls performed on 36,034 men and women aged 35-74 years from 1995 to 2000.
Results: Between countries, the mean percentage of dietary supplement use varied almost 10-fold among women and even more among men. There was a clear north-south gradient in use, with a higher consumption in northern countries. The lowest crude mean percentage of use was found in Greece (2.0% among men, 6.7% among women), and the highest was in Denmark (51.0% among men, 65.8% among women). Use was higher in women than in men. Vitamins, minerals or combinations of them were the predominant types of supplements reported, but there were striking differences between countries.
Conclusions: This study indicates that there are wide variations in supplement use in Europe, which may affect individual and population nutrient intakes. The results underline the need to monitor consumption of dietary supplements in Europe, as well as to evaluate the risks and benefits.