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Health food stores recommend adults-only dietary supplements to teens

Health food stores recommend adults-only supplements to teens

A new study has found that health food store employees often recommend adults-only supplements to teenagers.


The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that teenagers younger than 18 should not use body-shaping dietary supplements, which are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The supplements state that they are for adult use only, but it is legal for minors to buy them over the counter in 49 states.

Senior investigator Dr. Ruth Milanaik, of Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, New York, said that teens are enticed to buy the supplements because of the flashy advertisements and promises of quick results.

“In this body-conscious world, flashy advertising of 'safe, quick and easy body shaping results' are very tempting to younger individuals trying to achieve 'the perfect body,'” Dr. Milanaik said. “It is important for pediatricians, parents, coaches and mentors to stress that healthy eating habits, sleep and daily exercise should be the recipe for a healthy body.”

Testers identified themselves as 15-year-old boys and girls and called 244 health food stores – both independently owned and large-chain retailers – to ask about testosterone boosters. Forty-one percent of health food store employees told the callers that they could buy the supplements on their own, and nearly 10 percent recommended a specific testosterone booster.

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“Health food stores that advertise that their employees are 'trained experts' need to re-educate their employees and reinforce that these products are not recommended for minors,” Dr. Milanaik said.

Laura Fletcher, a college student who helped with the study, said that health food store employees must be aware of the dangers of underage use of supplements.

"The goal of ridding adolescents of body image-related insecurity in a healthy, supportive and medically-approved environment needs to be prioritized," she said.

The research was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in San Diego Sunday.

[Photo credit: Sabphoto / Shutterstock]