Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Marsha Spence

Committee Members

Katie Kavanagh, Trena Paulus


Introduction: Prior research has shown that dietary supplement use is a common practice among college students. Most of these studies used surveys and questionnaires to provide an overview of supplement use in the U.S. However, in-depth information on college students’ perceptions and/or concerns related to dietary supplement use is lacking. The aim of this study was to capture a deeper understanding of how college students perceive dietary supplements.

Methods: A qualitative case study design was used, which allowed a greater understanding of the case through content analysis. The study used a secondary database, which consisted of web log (blog) posts completed as an assignment in an undergraduate introductory nutrition course. Students were asked to describe their experiences with and beliefs about the use of dietary supplements in a discussion format using a blogging tool. Blog posts were coded and analyzed using QDA Miner computer software. The most commonly mentioned topics were then explored in their original context.

Results: Final coding of the blog data revealed four main categories: supplements used, rationale for use, sources of information, and perceptions about the safety of dietary supplements. The most commonly mentioned supplements were multivitamins, diet pills, creatine, and protein supplements. Blog data revealed that a common reason students took dietary supplements was a perceived lack of nutrients in their diet. Information about dietary supplements came mainly from friends’ or family members’ experiences with supplements. Many students had misconceptions about supplements, were not familiar with them, and/or questioned their effectiveness.

Conclusions: Based on the study findings, educational programs for college students should focus on common misconceptions; the safety and efficacy of supplements, especially diet pills and protein supplements; critical analysis of supplement information; and the appropriateness of supplement use.

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Included in

Nutrition Commons