Blue Cross Estimates One Million Kids Use Sports Supplements, Drugs
CHICAGO--Based on a survey by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, approximately one million youths between the ages of 12 and 17 have taken performance-enhancing supplements or drugs. The association's Healthy Competition Foundation National Survey (www.healthycompetition.org) based its projections on 1,787 phone interviews conducted in July with young people (ages 10 to 17) and adults (ages 21 to 64). However, many of the survey's results are based on hearsay information.
"The survey results indicate that young people are taking sports supplements in alarming numbers, even though they are clearly aware that the supplements can be dangerous," stated Allan Korn, M.D., chief medical officer for Blue Cross.
Of those surveyed, many reported that they knew someone who was taking creatine (57 percent) or steroids (31 percent), the two most cited substances. In addition, the teenagers surveyed stated that those who took these substances did so to perform better in sports (55 percent), build muscle (42 percent) and look better (16 percent).
Blue Cross projected that 390,000 10- to 14-year-olds are estimated to have taken performance-enhancing substances. This is a huge increase from a similar survey conducted by the organization in 1999, when no respondents under the age of 14 had said they used these substances.
Korn added that because sports supplements are offered over-the-counter, children have free access to them. In fact, 91 percent of adults favored warning labels on these supplements concerning possible health risks; 77 percent of adults surveyed wanted the government to regulate supplement manufacturers. "[W]e urge Congress to listen to the 77 percent who [also] said they support making performance-enhancing substances for sale as prescription only," he said.
"Performance enhancing dietary supplements are safe and beneficial if consumers use good sense and follow label directions for use," responded John Cordaro, president and chief executive officer of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN). "CRN is concerned about the lack of education and understanding about these products by young athletes, parents and coaches." CRN (www.crnusa.org) and the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements are cosponsoring a conference on performance enhancement products, to be held Sept. 28 and 29 in Tucson, Ariz.