Prevalence of and Factors Associated with Dietary Supplement Use in a Stratified, Random Sample of US Military Personnel: The US Military Dietary Supplement Use Study

J Nutr. 2021 Nov 2;151(11):3495-3506. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxab239.


Background: About 50% of Americans and 70% of US military service members use dietary supplements (DSs).

Objectives: This cross-sectional survey examined current prevalence of and factors associated with DS use in service members.

Methods: A stratified random sample of 200,000 service members from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Navy was obtained from military manpower records, and these service members were asked to complete a questionnaire on their DS use and personal characteristics. Chi-square statistics and multivariable logistic regression examined differences across various strata of demographic, lifestyle, and military characteristics.

Results: About 18% of successfully contacted service members (n = 26,681) completed the questionnaire between December 2018 and August 2019 (mean ± SD age: 33 ± 8 y, 86% male). Overall, 74% reported using ≥1 DS/wk. Multivitamins/multiminerals were the most commonly used DSs (45%), followed by combination products (44%), proteins/amino acids (42%), individual vitamins/minerals (31%), herbals (20%), joint health products (9%), and purported prohormones (5%). In multivariable analysis, factors independently associated with DS use included female gender [OR (female/male): 1.91; 95% CI: 1.73, 2.11], older age [OR (≥40/18-24 y): 1.25; 95% CI: 1.08, 1.44], higher education level [OR (college degree/high school or less): 1.35; 95% CI: 1.19, 1.53], higher BMI [OR (≥30/<25 kg/m2): 1.37; 95% CI: 1.25, 1.52], more weekly resistance training [OR (>300/≤45 min/wk): 5.05; 95% CI: 4.55, 5.61], smokeless tobacco use [OR (user/nonuser): 1.30; 95% CI: 1.17, 1.44], higher alcohol intake [OR (≥72/0 mL/wk): 1.41; 95% CI: 1.29, 1.54], and higher military rank [OR (senior officer/junior enlisted): 1.26; 95% CI: 1.06, 1.51].

Conclusions: Compared with civilian data from the NHANES, service members were much more likely to use DSs and used different types of DSs, especially combination products and proteins/amino acids often used to purportedly enhance physical performance. Comparisons with previous military data suggest DS use has increased over time.

Keywords: combination products; herbals; joint health products; mineral; multivitamin/multimineral; prohormone; vitamin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Prevalence
  • United States