In the largest population-based study to explore the use of hormones and supplements, body image, and media influences, eight percent of all girls and twelve percent of all boys reported using products in the past year to improve their appearance, muscle mass, or strength. Nearly five percent of boys and two 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.

“The Internet is full of sites where these substances can be purchased, and many are advertised in popular health and fitness magazines with covers like “Great abs in five minutes a day,’” says Dr. Alison Field, an epidemiologist in the Division of Adolescent Medicine and the Department of Psychiatry at Children’s Hospital Boston and the study’s first author. “Protein powders are probably relatively safe, but steroids have well-known side effects, and some of the other products may not be so benign.”

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.

“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 that impossible for most people to attain” says Field.

MEDICA.de; Source: Children's Hospital Boston