Background: US Army soldiers engage in strenuous activities and must maintain fitness and body weight to retain their jobs. Anecdotal reports suggest that the use of dietary supplements (DSs) by soldiers may reflect their unique occupational requirements and the complexity of their job and family responsibilities.
Objective: We assessed the use of DSs by soldiers.
Design: We conducted a survey of 990 randomly selected soldiers at 11 army bases globally. Data were weighted by age, sex, rank, and Special Forces status to represent the active-duty army.
Results: Overall, 53% of soldiers reported the use of DSs ≥1 time/wk; 23% of soldiers used sports beverages, 6% of soldiers used sports bars or gels, and 3% of soldiers reported the use of meal-replacement beverages. Most commonly used DSs were multivitamins or multiminerals (37.5%), protein and amino acids (18.7%), individual vitamins and minerals (17.9%), combination products (9.1%), and herbal supplements (8.3%). Many soldiers reported the use of performance-enhancement and weight-reduction products, and 22% of soldiers consumed ≥3 different DSs/wk. Logistic regression modeling indicated that older age, educational attainment, higher body mass index, and strength training were associated with DS use (P < 0.05). Reported reasons for DS use were to improve health (64%), provide more energy (31%), increase muscle strength (25%), and enhance performance (17%). Among DS users, mean monthly expenditures on DSs were $38, whereas 23% of soldiers spent >$50/mo.
Conclusions: Soldiers, like civilians, use large amounts of DSs, often in combination. Soldiers use more DSs purported to enhance performance than civilians use when matched for key demographic factors. These differences may reflect the unique occupational demands and stressors of military service.