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Why Parents Should Be Concerned about Body-Shaping Supplements Sold to Minors

Tim Boyer's picture
Body-Shaping Supplements

A new study shows that many dietary supplement sellers are not only selling pills meant for adults to teens, but are also encouraging this dangerous pill popping behavior of minors by recommending specific brands. Find out now why you should be aware about whether your child may be taking dietary supplements on the side.


While every parent is aware of the risk of their teen becoming exposed to illegal narcotics or stolen prescription drugs from someone’s medicine cabinet, few realize that there is also danger in their teen taking legal supplements easily available at any grocery or health food store.

In a recent Emaxhealth.com article titled “Health food stores recommend adults-only dietary supplements to teens,” writer Tayla Holman alerts readers about a new study that shows that not only is it legal to sell dietary supplements to minors in almost every state, but that sellers of body-shaping supplements ignore the fact that many of the supplements contain warnings against the use of their product by minors.

Minors are an especially easy target for supplement sales due to teenagers focusing on popularity among friends and classmates that is largely based on physical appearance that includes body shaping issues such as weight loss and muscle building. For the most part, girls want to be as thin as possible and boys want to bulk up. In both cases, the teens seek fat burning and testosterone pumping supplements with slick advertisements illustrating the perfect body they could achieve through pills.

However, rather than a perfect body a teen may find him or herself facing a diseased and damaged body in the mirror. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, products such as those advertised to reduce weight or increase strength that are popular among teenagers can actually be dangerous.

The Dangers of Teens Taking Dietary Supplements for Bulking Up

According to the National Institutes of Health,

“Several widely marketed bodybuilding products sold as dietary supplements have been found to contain steroids. In 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning to consumers to stop using any products that are being marketed for bodybuilding and that claim to contain steroids or steroid-like substances. These products are potentially harmful and could lead to serious liver injury, stroke, kidney failure, or other serious conditions.”

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In addition, they also advise against minors taking creatine for enhancing athletic performance. Although there is some scientific evidence that suggests that creatine supplements may enhance the effects of vigorous exercise on strength, muscle mass, and endurance, it may also cause fluid weight gain, nausea, cramping, diarrhea and potential kidney damage in some cases.

The Dangers of Teens Taking Dietary Supplements for Slimming Down

The National Institutes of Health points out that weight loss supplements intended for adults may contain numerous untested ingredients that have not been examined for safety or effectiveness in children.

“The possibility of product contamination is a main safety concern about dietary supplements for both children and adults, but the danger may be greater for children. Supplements have been found to contain hidden prescription drugs or other compounds, particularly in dietary supplements marketed for weight loss. In addition, herbs are sometimes misused by people with eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa to induce vomiting and control their weight.”

The bottom line held by health experts is that supplements—especially when not scientifically designed for minors―should be avoided due to the potential of unnecessary health risks. Their recommendation is that body-shaping efforts (for both teens and adults) are best achieved though eating a well-balanced diet and engaging in exercise.


North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System Press Release―“Despite warnings, health food stores recommend OTC dietary supplements to minors

National Institutes of Health― “5 Things to Know About Safety of Dietary Supplements for Children and Teens