Experts: More Kids Using Performance-Enhancing Supplements

10:39 PM, Nov 1, 2012   |    comments
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Greensboro, NC -- You've seen the stories about professional athletes, who have fallen from grace after accusations or evidence of using performance enhancing supplements.

The age some athletes starting using supplements to get an edge, has shocked even researchers. Most performance enhancing supplements are not illegal and not even regulated. Some kids and parents may see supplements as a shortcut to success, but they could have dangerous consequences.

Kids are competitive, and so are parents. While many parents believe eating right and getting more sleep will help their young athletes improve, that approach isn't enough for some parents.

"Parents come to us and they have these supplements, 'what do you think about this, coach? What do you think about that? It said in the article, that it will get him here.' I have to remind them that the article can say whatever it wants," said Rodney Beasley, a speed and agility coach at Proehlific Park in Greensboro.

Beasley is seeing this more and more and at younger ages than ever. Dr. Mike Perko, an associate professor in the Department of Public Health Education at UNC Greensboro, is seeing it too.

"I don't think they were self-medicating. I don't think a 10-year-old is able to make that distinction," said Perko. "What worries us then is, who in their universe is making those decisions for them?"

"Some parents want to live vicariously through their kid," said Beasley.

Perko was part of a team that surveyed a millions of kids across the nation. What they found was overwhelming.

"We found over 1.1 million kids, average age of 10, saying they took some sports-related supplement," said Perko. "What made our red flags go up and our alarms go off, were the types of products we know don't help their physical development."

From Creatine, to testosterone boosters and energy drinks, the majority of the products are not regulated.

"So when a child or parent decides to purchase these products, it's the wild, wild west," said Perko.

According to the FDA, supplement companies are responsible for having evidence supporting the claim that their products are safe, but they do not have to submit that evidence to the FDA. Also, the FDA does not review or approve the majority of dietary supplements.

There's not much evidence that they work either.

"When it comes to dietary supplements, run screaming in the other direction," said Perko.

Just this year, the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism reviewed supplement products that promise increased body composition and weight loss. They found they were ineffective, or had minimal effects at best.

But there is evidence of side effects, some of them dangerous.

"We've seen weight loss that's too extreme. We've seen heart problems. We've seen kids that have heart murmurs that are uneducated on the product that they're using," said Beasley.

"They could end up in the emergency room, or worse," said Perko.

At Proehlific Park, they encourage athletes to talk to the coaches about the results they want and how they can get there naturally. Their motto: Anything worth having, is worth working for.

"We try to make sure we educate them on, this is the risk you're taking, to what reward? You can get it safely, or you can expedite the process, and possibly, never be an athlete again," said Beasley.

"All the things that we knew, our grandmother knew, our grandfather knew, and our parents know, that's not rocket science, it's good science," said Perko. Your athlete's health comes first. Period. If you want to discuss that any more, there is not discussion, that's it."

So when is a dangerous supplement taken off the market or regulated?

The FDA responds to complaints about supplements and investigates.

To register a complaint, you can call the FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088 or file a complaint online at



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