CHICAGO--Based on a survey conducted by Blue Cross and Blue Shield, approximately one million youth between the ages of 12 and 17 have taken performance-enhancing supplements or drugs. The association's Healthy Competition Foundation National Survey (www.healthcompetition.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).
Based on projections, 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 Blue Cross 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. "[W]e urge Congress to listen to the 77 percent [of adults] who said they support making performance-enhancing substances for sale as prescription only," he said.
The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) responded to the survey, encouraging the Healthy Competition Foundation to work with the industry and other parties to develop acceptable goals for responsible use of performance-enhancing supplements. "Performance enhancing dietary supplements are safe and beneficial if consumers use good sense and follow label directions for use," said John Cordaro, CRN president and chief executive officer. CRN and the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements are cosponsoring a two-day conference in Tucson, Ariz., at the end of September about performance enhancement products. Further details on the conference are available from CRN (www.crnusa.org/pep.html)