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Open Access Research article

Confidence in the efficacy and safety of dietary supplements among United States active duty army personnel

Christina E Carvey, Emily K Farina and Harris R Lieberman*

Author affiliations

Military Nutrition Division, U.S, Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, Kansas Street, Natick, MA 01760, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012, 12:182  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-182

Published: 10 October 2012

Abstract

Background

United States Army Soldiers regularly use dietary supplements (DS) to promote general health, enhance muscle strength, and increase energy, but limited scientific evidence supports the use of many DS for these benefits. This study investigated factors associated with Soldiers’ confidence in the efficacy and safety of DS, and assessed Soldiers’ knowledge of federal DS regulatory requirements.

Methods

Between 2006 and 2007, 990 Soldiers were surveyed at 11 Army bases world-wide to assess their confidence in the effectiveness and safety of DS, knowledge of federal DS regulations, demographic characteristics, lifestyle-behaviors and DS use.

Results

A majority of Soldiers were at least somewhat confident that DS work as advertised (67%) and thought they are safe to consume (71%). Confidence in both attributes was higher among regular DS users than non-users. Among users, confidence in both attributes was positively associated with rank, self-rated diet quality and fitness level, education, and having never experienced an apparent DS-related adverse event. Fewer than half of Soldiers knew the government does not require manufacturers to demonstrate efficacy, and almost a third incorrectly believed there are effective pre-market federal safety requirements for DS.

Conclusions

Despite limited scientific evidence supporting the purported benefits and safety of many popular DS, most Soldiers were confident that DS are effective and safe. The positive associations between confidence and DS use should be considered when developing DS-related interventions or policies. Additionally, education to clarify Soldiers’ misperceptions about federal DS safety and efficacy regulations is warranted.

Keywords:
Consumer beliefs; Military; Government regulation; Dietary supplement health and education act (DSHEA)