Consumer usage and reasons for using dietary supplements: report of a series of surveys

J Am Coll Nutr. 2014;33(2):176-82. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2013.875423.


Objective: Consumer usage of dietary supplements is prevalent in the United States, and total usage is higher than reported in recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), because these surveys capture usage only in the 30 days prior to the respondent's interview and do not capture occasional and seasonal use throughout the year. We report data from a series of consumer surveys on the full extent of dietary supplement use, on the reasons for supplement use, and on the products most commonly taken, as well as other health habits of supplement users.

Methods: The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), a trade association of the dietary supplement industry, has contracted with Ipsos Public Affairs to conduct consumer surveys annually since 2000. The surveys have been administered online since 2007 to about 2000 subjects each year. We report 5 years of data (2007 to 2011) on the prevalence of dietary supplement use, as well as more detailed data from the 2011 survey on the products used, the reasons for using supplements, and other health habits of supplement users.

Results: The prevalence of supplement use fluctuated within the range of 64% to 69% from 2007 to 2011, and the prevalence of regular supplement use ranged from 48% to 53%, with no statistically significant differences from year to year. Over the 5-year period, the percentage of respondents who said that they regularly used a variety of supplements increased from 28% to 36%, and the increase from 2010 to 2011 was statistically significant. The percentage of respondents who said that they regularly used only a multivitamin, as opposed to a variety of supplements, declined from 24% to 17%, and the decrease from 2007 to 2008 was statistically significant. Detailed results from the 2011 survey confirm that supplement use increases with age and is higher in women than in men. Vitamin or mineral supplements were used by 67% of all respondents in 2011, specialty supplements by 35%, botanicals by 23%, and sports supplements by 17%. Among supplement users, multivitamins were the most commonly used supplement (71%), followed by omega-3 or fish oil (33%), calcium (32%), vitamin D (32%), and vitamin C (32%). The reasons most often cited for supplement use were for overall health and wellness (58%) and to fill nutrient gaps in the diet (42%). Supplement users were significantly more likely than nonusers to say that they try to eat a balanced diet, visit their doctor regularly, get a good night's sleep, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy weight.

Conclusions: Annual consumer surveys over a period of 5 years show that dietary supplement use is somewhat more prevalent in the United States than has been reported in the NHANES surveys, when occasional and seasonal use are taken into account, in addition to regular use. Most dietary supplement users take a multivitamin, and many take a variety of products. The primary reasons given for supplement use are for overall health and wellness or to fill nutrient gaps. Users of dietary supplements are more likely than nonusers to adopt a variety of healthy habits, indicating that supplement use is part of an overall approach to living healthy.

Keywords: consumer surveys; consumer surveys of dietary supplement use; dietary supplement surveys; dietary supplements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Dietary Supplements / statistics & numerical data*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutrition Surveys*
  • Nutritional Requirements*
  • United States