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Prevalence of Dietary Supplement Use and Associated Factors Among Female College Students in Saudi Arabia

The rapid economic growth in Saudi Arabia has led to a gradual change in the diet and lifestyle of its citizens. In the recent past, the number of people who are either obese or overweight has dramatically increased. According to Radwan et al., most Saudi people have adopted the consumption of dietary supplements to boost the quality of their usual foods. [1] Besides, many Saudi female students in colleges have shifted to consuming Western foods and, in turn, the need for dietary supplements to control and avoid diseases. In this article,” Prevalence of dietary supplement use and associated factors among female college students in Saudi Arabia,” Alfawaz et al. investigate the association of dietary supplements on female students’ lifestyle and socio-demographic aspects. [2] Although this study established that the high consumption of dietary supplements plays a vital role in the lifestyle of Saudi female students, there were notable shortcomings related to the sample size and design.

Alfawaz et al. conducted a cross-sectional study involving 534 students between the ages of 19 and 26 years from science and humanitarian colleges. Data were collected using self-administered questionnaires that focused on four parts; lifestyle information, the type of supplement used, the reason for use, and the frequency of use. Findings showed that the rate of incidence of supplement use was 76.6%. Also, physical activity and advanced education were identified as factors positively related to increased supplement use. The most frequent supplements were glucosamine, beta-carotene, and chamomile used according to personal needs; multivitamins, cod liver oil, vitamin A, ginseng, and omega 3, which were used occasionally; multi-minerals used daily, and potassium and iron identified as disease supplements. Besides, the authors observed that the rate of dietary supplement use among female college students was high. In addition, there is a positive relationship between physical activity and advanced education achievements with supplement use.

Despite establishing that dietary supplements were positively associated with physical exercise, this study had two notable limitations. First, the researchers recruited a total of 534 female students to investigate the prevalence of dietary supplements. Although the sample appears to be relatively large, all the participants were recruited from only one university; King Saud University. Besides, all the participants were obtained from the health and humanitarian colleges. According to Clark et al., the selection of a sample should be diversified and should represent the entire population of interest. [3] As such, the outcomes of this study could not be generalized to the entire population of Saudi female students. Secondly, while the outcomes of this study revealed that female students are highly associated with dietary supplements, its cross-sectional nature hinders the generalization of findings. For instance, the findings were short-term; hence the prevalence of dietary supplements consumption in the long-term is unpredictable. Broersma et al. state that cross-sectional studies are prone to bias information regarding the tested variables and may become hard to analyze and interpret. [4] As such, the cross-sectional nature of this study only provided a short-term assessment and hence cannot be generalized to the entire population. Of course, many will disagree with this assertion that the findings of this study could not be generalized due to the tiny sample and cross-sectional nature. For instance, Hawley claims that a small sample is vital for a quick study and provides accurate results due to simple analysis and interpretation of the tested variables. [5] Besides, some scholars may argue that cross-sectional studies are cheap to administer. Nevertheless, cross-sectional studies face ethical constraints, are prone to underestimating treatment effects, and do not fully represent the larger population. [4] In addition, failure to represent the whole population due to a small sample hinders the generalization of the results.

In conclusion, the general outcome of this study revealed that female college students are highly associated with relatively high consumption of dietary supplements. Still, this study faced critical challenges such as a small sample and the non-generalizable results due to the cross-sectional nature. The inclusion of participants from only one university limited the generalization of findings to other learning institutions. Besides, this study’s outcomes are short-term and cannot be relied upon in the long run. Although some claims may defend the reliability of these findings, proper data collection methods are essential for clinical research. As such, there should be no incidences of gaps in the experimental period. Further studies are needed to investigate the correlation between dietary supplements and the lifestyle of college students. In addition, future research should focus on increasing awareness of supplements’ side effects and the need for practitioners in supplement use.


  1. Radwan H, Hasan HA, Ghanem L, Alnajjar G, Shabir A, Alshamsi A, Alketbi F. Prevalence of dietary supplement use and associated factors among college students in the United Arab Emirates. [Internet]. Journal of community health. 2019 Dec. [Cited 2021 Nov 1]. Available from:
  2. Alfawaz H, Khan N, Alfaifi A, Shahrani FM, Al Tameem HM, Al Otaibi SF, Abudigin WI, Al-Shayaa MS, Al-Ghanim SA, Al-Daghri NM. Prevalence of dietary supplement use and associated factors among female college students in Saudi Arabia. [Internet]. BMC women’s health. 2017 Dec. [Cited 2021 Nov 1]. Available from:
  3. Clark LT, Watkins L, Piña IL, Elmer M, Akinboboye O, Gorham M, Jamerson B, McCullough C, Pierre C, Polis AB, Puckrein G. Increasing diversity in clinical trials: overcoming critical barriers. [Internet].Current problems in cardiology. 2019 May 1. [Cited 2021 Nov 1]. Available from:
  4. Broersma F, Oeseburg B, Dijkstra J, Wynia K. The impact of self-perceived limitations, stigma and sense of coherence on quality of life in multiple sclerosis patients: results of a cross-sectional study. [Internet]. Clinical rehabilitation. 2018 Apr. [Cited 2021 Nov 1]. Available from:
  5. Hawley S, Ali MS, Berencsi K, Judge A, Prieto-Alhambra D. Sample size and power considerations for ordinary least squares interrupted time series analysis: a simulation study. [Internet].Clinical epidemiology. 2019. [Cited 2021 Nov 1]. Available from:


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