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Blue Cross Warns Consumers About Sports Supplements

CHICAGO--The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) released an educational advisory that will be distributed to schools nationwide regarding potentially dangerous sports supplements. BCBSA's Healthy Competition Foundation created the advisory, which warns people of all ages against taking supplements containing androstenedione (andro), creatine, ephedra or related substances.

The Foundation (www.healthycompetition.org) also listed in the advisory "widely marketed" products that may contain these ingredients, including such products as Andro-Gen (containing androstenedione), LifeSmart's Creatine Chews (containing creatine) and Metabolife 356 (containing ephedra).

The Foundation's decision to post this advisory was prompted by the increased use of these supplements in children under 18. "The long-term effects of these products remain to be seen," said Terry Keigher, media relations for BCBSA. "This is a warning to kids today to consult with their physicians before they start using these on a regular basis."

Keigher added that some coaches are recommending these products to kids to improve performance and stamina without considering the risks involved. "This is an education advisory for coaches and parents who need to talk to their kids about these substances," he added.

Although the Foundation cited studies in its release that linked andro and ephedra with adverse effects, it stated that creatine had only anecdotal evidence linking it with abnormal kidney function.

However, Darren Lopez, vice president of operations at Salt Lake City-based LifeSmart, stated that the public should not confuse creatine with andro, an ingredient that has caused athletes to test positive for steroids. "Kids get creatine naturally in meat," Lopez stated. "However, we don't encourage kids under 18 to take creatine supplements."

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