Data from National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) indicated that about 1.6% of adolescents with an average age of 10.8 report taking supplements specifically for sports performance.
According to findings published in The Journal of Primary Prevention, 95% of these supplement users took a multivitamin and/or mineral combination, while 44% took omega-3s, 34% took creatine, and 26% took fiber or psyllium.
Led by Will Evans, Jr., from the Texas Chiropractic College in Pasadena, the researchers voice their concern over the use of creatine: “The vast majority of research on creatine has been conducted in a laboratory setting with male athletes aged at least 18 years, and there is scant clinical research on a healthy athletic population under the age of 18,” they explained.
“This is concerning given the findings in this sample that the mean age of those reporting any supplement use for sport performance is just under 11 years. This seems relatively young to be reporting anything to enhance sport performance but could be a sign of marketing efforts and more children entering sports at earlier ages.
“One has to ponder the potential for future use of more dangerous substances as well, if use of any supplement is occurring at 11 years of age.”
Commenting independently on the survey’s findings, Michael Bergeron, PhD, FACSM, executive director of the National Youth Sports Health & Safety Institute told NutraIngredients-USA: “Even in adults, there’s little to no evidence that supplements, vitamins and minerals have a performance advantage, except in the rare cases where there is a documented deficiency.
“Why would we think these would work with kids, whose physiological demands and capacity are far less?
“The main point is that the thinking is wrong. Supplements should not be the “Band-aid” for overscheduling and a misguided emphasis on early success. Parents, coaches and young athletes should be focusing on a long-term, natural development approach: plenty of rest, good diet, adequate hydration and having fun. This recipe will go a long way toward enhancing a young athlete’s performance and health,” added Dr Bergeron.
“Of course, it’s questionable science to ask parents whether any single supplement—or a combination—has actually enhanced performance. Without measuring performance and having a randomized, valid, direct comparison to a no-supplement condition, how could they know? The data here are based on recollection, which is likely to be faulty.”
Analysis of a secondary data set from NHIS provided 9,417 records. “This resulted in a national population estimate of over 73.7 million children,” explained the Dr Evans and his co-workers. “About 1.2 million (1.64%) children or adolescents reported using some sort of dietary supplements (herbs, mineral, or vitamins) specifically to enhance sport performance, with about the same percentage (1.65%) noting an improvement in sports performances within the past 30 days of implementing the NHIS.”
The data also revealed that the boys were more likely than girls to take supplements for sports performance, and there was greater usage among Whites, and children living with both parents.
“Pediatric and other health groups have warned of the dangers of this population taking supplements for sport performance, and this should not be taken lightly,” concluded the researchers.
The sports nutrition market is booming in the US. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, dietary supplements for sport-specific and weight loss usage are worth almost $23 billion.
Source: The Journal of Primary Prevention
Volume 33, Number 1, Pages 3-12, DOI: 10.1007/s10935-012-0261-4
“Dietary Supplement Use by Children and Adolescents in the United States to Enhance Sport Performance: Results of the National Health Interview Survey”
Authors: M.Will. Evans, H. Ndetan, M. Perko, R. Williams, C. Walker