Dietary Supplementation Habits and Perceptions of Supplement Use Among Elite Finnish Athletes

in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism
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The aim of this study was to evaluate the frequency of dietary supplement (DS) use among elite Finnish athletes in 2002 and 2009. In 2009, the authors also wanted to examine the reasons for athletes’ DS use, whether athletes feel they have experienced benefits from their supplement use, and whether athletes had had an opportunity to consult dietary specialists. Cross-sectional studies were conducted in 2002 and 2009 among Finnish Olympic athletes. Data were collected using semistructured questionnaires, mainly in national team camps. The study population in 2002 was 446 athletes, and in 2009 it was 372. The number of DS users was high in both study years (81% in 2002 and 73% in 2009). Vitamin D consumption was low in both 2002 and 2009 (0.7% and 2.0%, respectively). An increase was found in consumption of omega-3 fatty acids between study years (11% in 2002 and 19% in 2009; p = .002), and their regular use nearly doubled (8% and 15%, p = .002). For vitamin and mineral users, the main reason for DS use was to prevent nutritional deficiencies, and for nutritional supplement users the main reason was recovery from exercise. Only 27% of all athletes and 30% of DS users had an opportunity to consult dietary specialists in 2009. This survey shows that supplementation rates among elite Finnish athletes are high and there may be over- and underuse of some micronutrient supplements. There is a need for professional nutritional counseling among national elite athletes.

Heikkinen and Alaranta are with the Dept. of Physiology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland. Helenius is with Turku Children’s Hospital, Turku University Central Hospital, Turku, Finland. Vasankari is with the National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland.