Public Health Nutrition

Monitoring and surveillance

Nutritional supplement use among Slovenian adolescents

Helena Šterlinko Grma1a2 c1, Mojca Stubelj Arsa2, Lilijana Besednjak-Kocijančiča3 and Petra Goljaa4

a1 Helena Šterlinko Grm s.p., Ajba 22, SI-5213 Kanal ob Soči, Slovenia

a2 Centre for Systems and Information Technologies, University of Nova Gorica, Nova Gorica, Slovenia

a3 Primary Health Care Centre, Nova Gorica, Slovenia

a4 Department of Biology, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia


Objective Little is known about the prevalence of nutritional supplement use in European adolescents. We conducted the present study to analyse the prevalence of nutritional supplement use and factors associated with this use among Slovenian adolescents.

Design The nutritional supplementation practices of 818 adolescents were studied using an anonymous questionnaire. Information was sought on the type of supplements used, frequency of use and sources of information.

Setting The region of north-west Slovenia.

Subjects Schoolchildren from twenty primary schools and twelve secondary schools.

Results Some 19·3% of all adolescents reported using at least one nutritional supplement and the prevalence of use was significantly higher in adolescents who were members of sports clubs. Multivitamins were the most common nutritional supplement. Older adolescents were significantly more likely to be supplementing with iron, protein and minerals. Less than 16 % of supplement users in our study sought information from health-care professionals. Nearly 62 % obtained information from parents and coaches, and many adolescents appear to decide on nutritional supplementation themselves, without advice. Older adolescents were significantly more likely to combine supplements than younger adolescents.

Conclusions One-fifth of Slovenian adolescents use nutritional supplements. There are clear differences in supplement use between younger (age 12 years) and older (age 17 years) adolescents. Multiple use of supplements, coupled with self-managed supplementation in older adolescents, is concerning. Hence, there is an urgent need to provide accurate information regarding nutritional supplements, which will help adolescents, their parents and coaches to make informed choices about their use.

(Received January 21 2011)

(Accepted August 10 2011)

(Online publication September 14 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Email