Is There a Difference in the Use of Dietary Supplements between Military Personnel and Civilians?

Research Paper Title

Longitudinal trends in use of dietary supplements by U.S. Army personnel differ from those of civilians.


Prevalence and patterns of dietary supplement (DS) use by U.S. Army soldiers differ from the civilian population. Longitudinal trends in use of DSs by civilians have been examined, but are unavailable in subpopulations such as military service members. The present study examined longitudinal changes in DS use by soldiers.


A standardised questionnaire on DS use was administered in 2006-2007 (N = 989) and 2010-2011 (N = 1196) to convenience samples of active duty soldiers. Data were weighted for total population demographics of age, sex, and rank.


Regular use of DSs by soldiers increased significantly (56% ± 1.6% vs. 64% ± 1.7%; p ≤ 0.001) over the 4 years primarily because of an increase of DS use among the youngest 18- to 24-year-old soldiers (43.0% ± 2.5% vs 62.3% ± 2.4%; p ≤ 0.01). Protein (22% ± 1.4% vs. 26% ± 1.5%; p ≤ 0.001) and combination (10.0% ± 1.0% vs. 24% ± 1.4%; p ≤ 0.001) product consumption also increased over the 4 years. Individual vitamin and mineral use – including iron, magnesium, selenium, and vitamins A, B6, B12, and D – significantly increased as well (p ≤ 0.05). In addition, expenditures on DSs by soldiers increased over time (p < 0.01). Reasons reported by soldiers for DS use suggest use increased to meet the occupational demands of military service.


Educational interventions to minimize inappropriate use of DSs by soldiers are necessary to reduce adverse events resulting from unnecessary use of DSs and the financial burden associated with their use.


Austin, K.G., Price, L.L., McGraw, S.M., McLellan, T.M. & Lieberman, H.R. (2016) Longitudinal Trends in Use of Dietary Supplements by U.S. Army Personnel Differ from those of Civilians. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. 41(12), pp.1217-1224. Epub 2016 Jul 14.


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