A research report in the journal Pediatrics shows that more than 10,000 teenagers in US use hormones and dietary supplements to have a desired physique. The report also brings to light importance these young people attach to a favorable body image
In the largest population-based study to explore the use of hormones and supplements, body image, and media influences, 8 percent of all girls and 12 percent of all boys reported using products in the past year to improve their appearance, muscle mass, or strength. Nearly 5 percent of boys and 2 percent of girls used such products at least weekly. About 30 percent of both sexes reported thinking frequently about wanting more toned or defined muscles; after adjustment for other factors, boys with such thoughts were 60 percent more likely than their peers, and girls twice as likely, to use supplements at least weekly.
The most commonly used products were protein powders and shakes. Others used predominantly by boys, included creatine, amino acids, the amino-acid metabolite HMB, the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), growth hormone, and anabolic steroids.
Anabolic steroids have the most serious health effects, including testicular atrophy, impotence, liver and kidney damage, an increased risk for heart disease, and the widely reported "'roid rage" (uncontrolled aggression). The safety of creatine, DHEA, and other products purported to increase muscle mass and tone has been questioned and isn't well known.
The survey, of adolescents aged 12 to 18, was done in 1999 as part of the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS), which involves children of nurses enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study based at Brigham and Women's Hospital. GUTS was co-founded by Field and Dr. Graham Colditz and colleagues of Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health.
The findings also indicate that the media have a strong influence on adolescent supplement use and that body image concerns are well established among boys than girls.