U.S. Dietary Supplement Usage Higher than Thought


The number of U.S. adults using dietary supplements may be higher than initial estimates published by the CDC's National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES).

The number of U.S. adults using dietary supplements may be higher than initial estimates published by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, overall supplements usage may be as high as 64%–69%, according to a new review commissioned by dietary supplement industry association the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC) and published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (JACN).

The JACN report culls data from CRN’s own surveys of U.S. adult supplements usage, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for five consecutive years, 2007–2011.

Why are the CRN survey numbers higher than NHANES’? Because CRN’s surveys account for yearlong supplements usage. The NHANES data only surveyed adult usage over the span of one month. Thus, CRN’s data also captures occasional supplements usage by those who may only use supplements during certain seasons of the year.

“Both the NHANES research and the CRN research provide significant information,” Judy Blatman, CRN’s senior vice president, communications, tells Nutritional Outlook. (Blatman helped co-author the JACN review.) “CRN’s data indicate that supplement usage is more prevalent than previously thought because it allowed participants to identify their supplement use in a way which is more reflective of the actual marketplace; as an example, someone using Echinacea might only do so seasonally.”

Also, she adds, CRN’s data captures usage by those who “come in and out of the market,” including users who may try using a dietary supplement for a short period of time or those who used up-but did not yet replenish-their supplement supply during the time the survey was conducted.

Over the five-year period, CRN’s survey data indicate that 64%-69% of respondents use supplements overall, and that 48%–53% of U.S. adults use supplements regularly.

More U.S. adults are also taking a variety of supplement types beyond just a multivitamin, CRN’s data show. Over the five-year survey period, the number of regular supplement users doubled in terms of those using a variety of supplements versus those using only a multivitamin.

Marketing, supplement availability, and overall growing consumer interest in supplements are all factors taking users beyond the multivitamin, Blatman says. First, she cites mainstream usage and acceptance of supplements. These days, “It’s not unusual to know people who take herbal supplements, or protein powders.”

Multivitamins may also be an entry point for some consumers, who then expand into other types of supplements. “In addition to its health benefits, a multivitamin is a good way to become acquainted with the category, and positive publicity around nutrients such as omega-3, vitamin D, probiotics, CoQ10, and more help drive even more interest,” Blatman says.

The bottom line is that more U.S. adult consumers are using dietary supplements. Both CRN and NHANES data, taken together, “indicate that half to two-thirds of American adults use dietary supplements, and that their motivation comes from a desire to stay health,” says Annette Dickinson, PhD, one of the review’s authors and consultant to CRN.


Jennifer Grebow
Nutritional Outlook magazine jennifer.grebow@ubm.com

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