An article published earlier this week in Health Day titled Looks-Conscious Teens Trying Risky Supplements highlights the use of dietary supplements in America's youth. The article says, "These products — including protein powders, steroids and diet pills — are often useless at best, toxic at worst, said the American Academy of Pediatrics in a new report."
It seems that the guys are more likely to be using steroids and protein powders to enhance their muscle mass, while the girls are more often taking diet pills to lose weight. Caffeine supplements and drinks are also a big problem, especially for those with ADD/ADHD who are already taking a prescription stimulant like Adderall or Vyvanse. The additional stimulant effect of caffeine on top of the medication can cause heart problems.
According to the FDA, "They [anabolic steroids] are known to have a range of serious adverse effects on many organ systems, and in many cases the damage is not reversible. They include fertility problems, impotence, high blood pressure and cholesterol, and heart and liver abnormalities. Boys may experience shrinkage of the testes or the development of breast tissue; girls may experience menstrual irregularities and development of masculine qualities such as facial and body hair. Both may experience acne. Both boys and girls may also experience mood swings and aggressive behavior, which can impact the lives not only of those taking steroids, but of everyone around them."
Regarding weight loss supplements, the FDA says, “We’ve also found weight-loss products marketed as supplements that contain dangerous concoctions of hidden ingredients including active ingredients contained in approved seizure medications, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants.”
With the pressure to conform to society's standards of beauty and attractiveness, it's easy to see why teens (and adults too) would take such risks. Look at who their role models are in the world of sport where doping is a rampant problem. Professional distance runner Kara Goucher spoke out about the illegal doping in her sport. Lance Armstrong was stripped of his 7 Tour de France wins after admitting to doping. We live in a world of quick fixes along side performance and beauty "enhancements" – a risky combination for teens trying to fit in.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is urging all doctors to be familiar with this trend and to be counseling their patients about the risks. But it doesn't stop there. We all need to be having this discussion with our kids. Not only is it unnecessary for them to use these supplements, it's dangerous.