To clarify the prevalence of dietary supplement use among college students, we conducted Internet-based nationwide questionnaire surveys with 157,595 Japanese college students aged between 18 to 24 years old who were registrants of Macromill Inc. (Tokyo, Japan). Among the 9066 respondents (response rate 5.8%), 16.8% were currently using dietary supplements. The prevalence of dietary supplement use did not differ significantly between males (17.1%) and females (16.7%). However, it increased according to their grade (13.1% to 20.5%), and it was higher in medical and pharmaceutical college students (22.0%) compared to others (16.7%). The main purpose of dietary supplement use was for the health benefits in both males and females. Other reasons were to build muscle in males, and as a beauty supplement and for weight loss in females. According to the purpose of dietary supplement use, the most commonly-used dietary supplements were vitamin/mineral supplements in both males and females, then protein and weight loss supplements in males and females, respectively. Although most students obtained information about dietary supplements via the Internet, they typically purchased the supplements from drug stores. Of the students surveyed, 7.5% who were currently using or used to use dietary supplements experienced adverse effects, with no significant difference between genders (8.8% in male, 7.0% in female). In conclusion, the prevalence of dietary supplement use increased with grade among college students in Japan. Some of them experienced adverse effects. Education may be important to prevent adverse effects resulting from supplement use in college.
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