Is Dietary Supplement Use Higher in Civilian or Military Populations?

Research Paper Title

Dietary Supplement Use in a Large, Representative Sample of the US Armed Forces.


Dietary supplement (DS) use is prevalent among the US Armed Forces personnel, but representative cross-service comparisons and characteristics of personnel using DS’s are limited.

With this in mind, the purpose of this research was to examine DS use and characteristics associated with use in a representative sample of US Armed Forces personnel (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard) using data from the 2011 Department of Defence Survey of Health-Related Behaviours.


A stratified random sample of service members (SM’s) was contacted and asked to complete a questionnaire assessing personal characteristics and DS use.


Overall, 69% of the 39,877 SMs reported using DSs ≥1 time per week.

The most commonly used DS’s were:

  • Multivitamin or multi-minerals (50%);
  • Antioxidants (34%);
  • Individual vitamins or minerals (33%);
  • Bodybuilding supplements (27%);
  • Fish oils (26%);
  • Herbals (16%); and
  • Weight-loss supplements (16%).

Multiple logistic regression indicated overall DS use was higher among:

  • Women;
  • Those with higher educational levels;
  • Marine Corps SM’s;
  • Officers;
  • Those with higher body mass index;
  • Those engaged in greater physical activity and weight training; and
  • People in weight control programmes.

DS use was lower when peer groups or leadership discouraged substance abuse.


DS use was considerably higher in the US Armed Forces compared with civilian populations, although many demographic and lifestyle factors associated with use were similar.

Some categories of DS’s extensively used by SM’s such as bodybuilding supplements have been associated with adverse events.

Discouraging substance abuse through peer groups and leadership actions may reduce use of unnecessary or dangerous DS’s.


Knapik, J.J., Austin, K.G., Farina, E.K. & Lieberman, H.R. (2018) Dietary Supplement Use in a Large, Representative Sample of the US Armed Forces. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 118(8), pp.1370-1388. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2018.03.024. Epub 2018 Jun 19.


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