Dietary supplement use and associated factors among university students
Objective. To examine the regularity of dietary supplement use and related information in a sample of 400 university students. Design and outcome measures. An interview schedule was developed for these purposes containing questions on demographic and health and lifestyle-associated variables, regularity of supplement use, reasons for non-use or sporadic use and regular supplement use-related questions. Setting. Stellenbosch University, South Africa. Subjects. Four hundred undergraduate and postgraduate students. Results. Non-use of supplements was reported by 38.5% of students. The main reason given for not using supplements at all was 'not necessary' and 'don't know/no reason'. Sporadic supplement use was reported by 19.5%, with the main reason for sporadic supplement use being 'use when stressed' and 'use when tired/ill'. Regular supplement use was reported by 42% of the students interviewed, with vitamin-mineral combination supplements being the most commonly used supplements. Regular supplement users showed no specific demographic or health and lifestyle-associated characteristics. Reasons provided by the regular supplement users were similar for most supplement types and seem to reflect the advertising strategies used by producers of supplements. The main reasons cited in this regard were 'physical health', 'dietary reasons' and 'body conditioning and energy'. Family and friends, doctors and advertising were the main sources of information on the need for supplementation. Students chose to use supplements instead of food because of perceived dietary inadequacy, convenience and the belief that food does not contain sufficient nutrients. Significant gender differences were found with regard to reasons for sporadic use of supplements, reasons for regular use of two specific supplements and reasons why a supplement was chosen instead of food in the case of a specific supplement. Conclusion. Supplement use was found to be common practice in this student population, as has been found among students elsewhere.