The widespread consumption of over-the-counter body-building supplements is emerging as an eating disorder, a study has warned.
“Body-conscious men who are driven by psychological factors to attain a level of physical or masculine ‘perfection’ are prone to use these supplements and drugs in a manner that is excessive and which was demonstrated in this study to be a variant of disordered eating,” said Richard Achiro from Alliant International University, Los Angeles.
For the study, the researchers recruited 195 men, aged between 18-65 who had consumed over-the-counter appearance or performance-enhancing supplements (e.g., whey protein, creatine, L-cartinine) in the past 30 days and had stated that they work out for fitness or appearance-related reasons a minimum of two times a week.
The researchers found that over 40 percent of participants indicated that their use of supplements had increased over time and 22 percent indicated that they replaced regular meals with dietary supplements not intended to be meal replacements.
Most alarming, said Achiro, was that 29 percent said they were concerned about their own use of supplements.
On the more extreme end, eight percent of participants indicated that their physician had told them to cut back or stop using supplements due to actual or potential adverse health side effects, and three percent had been hospitalized for kidney or liver problems that were related to the use of supplements.
What’s driving this risky misuse of legal workout supplements, said Achiro, appears to be a combination of factors, including body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem and gender role conflict, in which an individual perceives that he is not living up to the strict limitations of masculinity dictated by modern culture.
The study was presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention being organized in Toronto, Canada, from August 6 to 9.