Use of Nonprescription Dietary Supplements for Weight Loss Is Common among Americans

Heidi Michels Blanck, Mary K. Serdula, Cathleen Gillespie, Deborah A. Galuska, Patricia A. Sharpe, Joan M. Conway, Laura Kettel Khan, Barbara Ainsworth

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    149 Scopus citations


    Objective: Dietary supplements are not recommended as part of a weight-loss program due to concerns about efficacy and safety. This study sought to assess prevalence and duration of nonprescription weight-loss supplement use, associated weight-control behaviors, discussion of use with a health care professional, and specific ingredient use. Participants and Design: Adults aged ≥18 years (n=9,403) completed a cross-sectional population-based telephone survey of health behaviors from September 2002 through December 2002. Statistical Analyses Performed: Both χ2 and t tests were conducted for categorical and mean comparisons and multiple variable logistic regression was used to determine significant predictors. Results: An estimated 15.2% of adults (women 20.6%, men 9.7%) had ever used a weight-loss supplement and 8.7% had past year use (women 11.3%, men 6.0%); highest use was among women aged 18 to 34 years (16.7%). In regression models, use was equally prevalent among race/ethnic groups and education levels. One in 10 (10.2%) of users reported ≥12 month use, with less frequent long-term use in women (7.7%) than men (15.0%), P=0.01. Almost one third (30.2%) of users discussed use during the past year; 73.8% used a supplement containing a stimulant including ephedra, caffeine, and/or bitter orange. Conclusions: Use of supplements for losing weight seems to be common among many segments of the US adult population. Many adults are long-term users and most do not discuss this practice with their physician. Most of the weight-loss supplements taken contain stimulants. Qualified professionals should inquire about use of supplements for weight loss to facilitate discussion about the lack of efficacy data, possible adverse effects, as well as to dispel misinformation that may interfere with sound weight-management practices.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)441-447
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of the American Dietetic Association
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Mar 2007

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Food Science
    • Nutrition and Dietetics


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