One in ten Greek teen athletes using contaminated supplements, study finds

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16 Apr 2018 --- One in ten adolescent athletes are using nutritional supplements contaminated with doping substances, a study has found. The study, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, revealed a high overall usage of supplement products amongst adolescent athletes in Athens, with proteins/amino acids and vitamins leading the way in popularity. However, the items, often purchased online, were contaminated with banned substances at a rate of nine percent.

The contaminants consisted of the banned substances, anabolic steroids, prohormones, selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) and aromatase inhibitors, all of which are pharmacological substances with endocrine modulating properties which were not stated on the label of the product.

The study was conducted among 170 recreational adolescent athletes from various gyms across Athens. Of the atheletes, 60 percent were consuming supplements.

The researchers concluded that exercising adolescents have easy access to contaminated nutritional supplements and “black market” products, which could constitute a risk for public health. Low level of awareness and low involvement of medical care professionals among recreational adolescent athletes was noted as problematic.

A recent review, published in Nutrients, sought to explore the ”unintentional doping” in sports that has occurred due to the huge increase in usage of dietary supplements among athletes. This study, conducted by the Research Group on Food and Nutrition, University of Alicante, also found rates of doping contaminations in supplements – mostly prohormones and/or stimulants – to be between 12 and 15 percent.

Researchers from this study reinforce that this is a real issue and one that must be acknowledged, particularly by the sporting world. The researchers recommended for current legislation to better regulate the market, and for the awareness of both athletes and coaches to be increased. In this way, better sources can be picked, which could, in turn, reduce the risk of contaminated, unreliable products.

NutritionInsight has previously covered products that carry the “Informed Sport” certification, which actively informs consumers about the safety of their sports, or nutritional, supplement, and holds a guarantee that the product is contamination free. 

The certification is particularly valuable for athletes as contaminated supplements can result in “positive” results on doping tests. However, not all products bear such a guarantee and regulations may not be active across all products available on the internet and “black-market” purchases.

Regarding the recreational Greek athletes in the study, it was pointed out by researchers that the individuals were using the supplements by choice, and it can be inferred that the whereabouts of their purchase was also by choice, i.e. from the internet. This study arguably brings to the fore a consideration over the responsibility of manufacturers and consumers alike in providing, and buying, safety guaranteed products.

By Laxmi Haigh

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