British Journal of Nutrition

Research Article

Demographic and lifestyle characteristics of functional food consumers and dietary supplement users

Nynke de Jonga1 c1, Marga C. Ockéa1, Hester A. C. Branderhorsta2 and Roland Frielea2

a1 Department of Chronic Diseases Epidemiology, National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, P.O. Box 1, 3720 BA, The Netherlands

a2 NIVEL, the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, Utrecht, The Netherlands


Functional foods and/or supplements may be used in the context of a healthy lifestyle or as a means to compensate for an unhealthy lifestyle. Adverse long-term and/or cumulative effects of functional food or supplement intake are of public health concern; it is therefore important to identify functional food and supplement users. The present study compared Dutch functional food and supplement consumers with non-consumers with regard to demographic and lifestyle factors. The consumption of the most common functional foods and supplements in 2000 was studied (yoghurt with extra lactic acid bacteria, cholesterol-lowering margarine, lemonade and sweets with extra vitamins and minerals, milk and margarine with extra Ca, Ca tablets, multivitamin and mineral supplements, and Echinacea supplements). Data were obtained from self-administered questionnaires filled in by a consumer panel, aged 19–91 years (response rate 76 %, n 1183), representative of the Dutch population. The number of daily consumers of functional foods or supplements appeared to be relatively low (daily use of multivitamin and mineral supplements, 20 %; all other products, 3–9 %). Explanatory variables depended on the type of product; but gender, age, education, and vegetable intake were significant factors in the logistic regression model. Consumption of cholesterol-lowering margarines was more likely to be reported by individuals with a poorer subjective health (odds ratio 2·62 (95 % CI 1·15, 6·05)) and by smokers (odds ratio 2·93 (95 % CI 1·34, 6·40)). In conclusion, determinants of functional food or supplement use depended on the type of product, so generalisation of consumer characteristics over different foods is not legitimate. In addition to research on lifestyle factors, surveys about consumers' attitudes, norms and knowledge regarding functional foods in relation to actual dietary patterns and health risk profiles are necessary.

(Received March 18 2001)

(Revised September 16 2002)

(Accepted September 18 2002)


c1 *Corresponding author: Dr Nynke de Jong, fax +31 30 274 4407, email