New Sports Supplement Warnings

ByABC News
May 14, 2001, 10:15 AM

N E W   Y O R K, May 15 -- Millions of Americans take pills, powders and drinks to enhance body tone, lose weight, sculpt themselves and perform better at sports.

But they may be doing themselves more harm than good, especially the male teenagers most likely to take the sports supplements that are so easily available in stores or over the Internet.

See a list of the supplements, their dangers and brand names here.

Studies of the most popular sports supplements ephedra, "andro" and creatine show they are either ineffective or produce, at best, slight changes in performance, according to the watchdog group Consumers Union.

Ephedra, an alleged weight loss and energy booster, has been linked to deaths, the group says.

Creatine, an amino acid promoted for short-term performance enhancement, can cause severe muscle cramps.

And "andro" can lead to feminization of boys.

Billion Dollar Sales of Sports Supplements

Regardless of their potential dangers, Americans consumers, a large number of them teenage boys succumbing to pressure to perform in school sports, are spending more than $1.4 billion a year on these essentially unregulated products, the group says.

Some 6 percent of youths ages 15 to 16, and 8 percent of 17- to 18-year-olds have taken a sports supplement, the group says. The majority of these youngsters are male.

The nutrition industry, however, defends the products, saying problems arise when people abuse them and do not follow dosage recommendations on labels.

A Little Good, More Better

Americans think if a little bit of something is good, then a lot of it must be better, says John Hathcock, vice president for nutritional and regulatory science at the Council for Responsible Nutrition, a trade group for the supplement industry. That is not the case, he says.

But Nancy Metcalf, senior editor of Consumer Reports, says the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate the labeling of nutritional products, leaving the 1.2 million Americans who regularly consume the sports supplements essentially in the dark about their contents.