Many body-conscious teens use supplements to improve physique

lled aggression). The safety of creatine, DHEA, and other products purported to increase muscle mass and tone has been questioned and isn't well known.

"Most of us in adolescent medicine think it's best to stay away from these products altogether," Field says.

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:

  • Girls who said they wanted to look like women in the movies, magazines, or on TV were more than twice as likely as their peers to use supplements at least weekly to increase muscle mass or definition. Twenty-one percent of girls with this desire had used at least one such product in the past year.

  • Boys who read men's, fashion, or health/fitness magazines were more than twice as likely as their peers to use supplements at least weekly to increase muscle mass or definition. Twenty-nine percent of boys reading these magazines had used at least one product in the past year.

  • Boys wanting to gain weight were three times more likely than their peers to use supplements at least weekly; in girls, the likelihood was more than quadrupled.

  • Weight lifting and playing football were linked to increased use of supplements -- particularly creatine, amino acids, DHEA, growth hormone, and steroids. Whether such use was self-driven, peer-driven, or coach-driven is unknown.

"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 are

Contact: Aaron Patnode
Children's Hospital Boston

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