Reasons for Adolescent Supplement Use

 In Naturopathic News

Node Smith, ND

Reasons Behind the Motivations for Adolescent Use of Supplements

A recent article looked at the reasons and motivations for adolescent use of dietary and nutritional supplements.1 The study looked at both male and female individuals and also separated groups into athletes and non-athletes –  because athletics seemed to be a contributing factor for supplement use.

More Adolescents Using Dietary Supplements

An increasing number of adolescents are using dietary supplements worldwide. As the nutraceutical industry grows with changing market trends, adolescents may become a major population which is marketed to. This may be concerning because adolescents, as a customer population, are a group that is susceptible to advertising pressure, and largely misinformed, or uninformed. For this reason, it is important for physicians working with this age group to be aware of the pressures and interests leading adolescents to seek dietary supplements.

Info Behind Supplement Study

The study, conducted in Slovenia, looked at data from 2014 cross-sectional study – Analysis of Children’s Development in Slovenia study. The data contained 1500 participants aged 14-19, from 15 different public high schools. There were equal numbers of male and female students. They answered questions about dietary supplement use including reasons for use, source of supplement, average daily physical activity, and type of sports trained in. The dietary supplements were categorized as vitamins, minerals, multis, proteins/amino acids, and fats.

Analysis Revealed Different Reasons for Use Between Girls and Boys

The analysis revealed that the reasons for use between girls and boys are different, but not so much between athletes and non-athletes. Male adolescents were generally more concerned with enhancement of physical performance, whether an athlete or not. Females were motivated by an interest in improving immune system function, followed secondarily by sports performance. On the whole, adolescents were more likely to use supplements if they were involved in sports activities.

Familiarization and Advice from Family and Friends Helped Base Decision to Supplement

The decision to use supplements seemed to come from familiarization with others talking about taking supplements and direct advice from family and friends. Medical consultation was not commonly noted as occurring before a decision to take supplements. The study concluded that direct marketing to adolescents could be impacting this age group’s decision to use nutritional supplements.


  1. Zdešar kotnik K, Jurak G, Starc G, Golja P. Faster, Stronger, Healthier: Adolescent-Stated Reasons for Dietary Supplementation. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2017.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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