Teens Turn to Supplements

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Peer pressure and media images of buff bodies may be driving a growing number of teenagers to turn to potentially dangerous supplements to bulk up their bodies and improve their body image.

A new survey shows nearly a third of teenage boys and girls say they frequently think about wanting more toned and defined muscles. Teens who feel that way are up to twice as likely to try supplements to achieve those goals.

It's the largest survey to look at the use of hormones, supplements, body image, and media influences among teenagers. The results show that teens' dissatisfaction with their bodies goes far beyond wanting to be thin and may lead them to use potentially dangerous steroids, hormones, or other supplements.

Impossible Physiques

Researchers say the study suggests that just as teenage girls may resort to unhealthful means to lose weight, teenage boys may also resort to unhealthy strategies to achieve their desired physique.

"More and more media images show people with sculpted physiques. It used to just be scantily-clad women, but now, you see more and more of images of men with physiques that are impossible for most people to attain," says researcher Alison Field, ScD, an epidemiologist in adolescent medicine at
Children's Hospital Boston, in a news release.

"Girls' concerns about their bodies are well known, but I don't think it's on parents' radar screens that their sons might have body concerns -- 'I'm not big enough, I'm not strong enough, I'm not buff enough.'"

Body-Conscious Teens May Be at Risk

In the study, researchers surveyed about 10,500 teen athletes and nonathletes about their use of any substance to improve their appearance, muscle mass, or strength.

The results showed that 12% of boys and 8% of girls reported using such products. Nearly 5% of boys and 2% of girls used them at least weekly.