Background: There have been multiple studies carried out in many countries with regard to the use of nonvitamin, nonmineral (NVNM) supplements. These studies have shown that the use of NVNM supplements is on the increase throughout the world, particularly in western countries. The aim of this study was to assess the extent of NVNM supplement use among Turkish university students. Methods: The survey was conducted between September and December 2004 at Osmangazi University, a public university located in the west of Turkey. Responses were analysed, using the chi-square (x2) test, t test and percent (%) ratios, according to gender and consumers. Differences were considered significant for p ≤ 0.05. Results: Of 2253 students attending the university, 1871 participated in the survey (909 men and 962 women). Overall, the prevalence of NVNM supplement use was 16.5% (16.6% in men and 16.3% in women, p < 0.05). The three most commonly given reasons for use were 'improvement of energy and vitality (78.6%)', 'promotion of weight loss (71.1%)', followed by 'enhancement of athletic performance (64.3%)'. Twenty-six of the 308 reported NVNM users (26/308, 8.4%) reported having experienced an adverse reaction. Television (76.3%), magazines/newspapers (41.5%) and internet websites (37.3%) were the most frequently used sources for obtaining information about NVNM supplements. The three most frequently used NVNM supplements were echinacea, ginseng, and gingko biloba (38.6%, 36.4%, and 32.8%, respectively). Nutritional scores were higher in NVNM supplement users than in non-users (66.510.8 vs. 62.712.7) (p < 0.001). Users and nonusers of NVNM supplements differed significantly according to sex, age, Body Mass Index (BMI) values, types of school, mother and fathers' education levels, family income, most permanent place of residence up to the time of survey, smoking status, and participating in sports. Conclusion: The results indicate that the prevalence of NVNM supplement use is relatively modest among Turkish university students and more information is needed on why people use particular NVNM supplements. © 2005 Ayranci et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.