Consumption of nutritional supplements among adolescents:
usage and perceived benefits

O'Dea JA.
School of Development and Learning,
Faculty of Education,
A35, Education Building,
University of Sydney,
NSW 2006, Australia.
Health Educ Res. 2003 Feb;18(1):98-107


The aim of the study was to obtain rich qualitative data about the type of nutritional supplements and drinks consumed by adolescents, and the reasons for their consumption, with particular emphasis on the perceived benefits of nutritional supplementation. Semi-structured focus group interviews (n = 16) were conducted among 78 adolescents aged 11-18 years from a co-educational government high school. Participants reported consuming sports drinks, vitamin and mineral supplements, energy drinks, herbal supplements, guarana, creatine, high protein milk supplements, and coenzyme Q10. Reasons for supplement use included perceived short-term health benefits, prevention of illness, improved immunity, parental supply of supplements, taste, energy boost, better sports performance and to rectify a poor diet. Results suggest that some adolescents consume nutritional supplements, sports drinks and energy drinks for their perceived physiological benefits, and that they may not be aware of any potential risks. Health educators should be aware that adolescents seek specific health benefits from nutritional supplements and drinks, which may be better achieved through appropriate consumption of a nutritious diet. Health education programmes should incorporate the perceptions, aspirations and motivations of young people into the planning of interventions and activities in order to make them most relevant and effective.
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