An exponential rise in the use of supplements, steroids, and hormone therapy as performance-enhancing agents has been seen in adults. Numerous studies have reported devastating side effects from the use of such unregulated substances. Therefore, it is crucial to investigate the efficacy and safety of supplements and steroids in adults.
Nutritional Supplements: Beneficial Or Unessential?
Nutritional supplements are available for use to the public as over-the-counter health products but the scientific data regarding their use is not reliable or generalizable. Moreover, the potential benefits associated with the administration of dietary supplements is limited to animal studies. As more than half of the population use supplements, caution is warranted in the potential abuse of supplements in athletes to enhance performance. In the United States, nutritional supplements do not need to meet the requirements set by the Food and Drug Administration. However, Health Canada set new criteria for these substances. Therefore, substances need to be assessed for safety prior to release to the public.
There is scarce data surrounding the effect of the administration of supplements on performance. A previous study in Australia compared athletes who used supplements to a control group for eight months. Results demonstrated no significant difference in performance levels between the two groups. Research has shown that more than 30% of high school athletes used supplements, reasons included to maintain health and enhance performance. Furthermore, most athletes assumed that supplement use was associated with improved performance.
The misuse of steroids for ergogenic benefit continues to be a problem not only among athletes but also among the general population. Prior studies revealed that teenagers occasionally use steroids, especially in the male population. Additionally, safety studies reported adverse events in long-term steroid use such as cardiac, hormone, and carcinogenic effects.
Growth hormone (GH, HGH, Somatotropin, or Somatropin) has essential uses in the body from growth to regulation of bodily processes. However, it is overly used as a performance-enhancing agent. HGH breaks down triglycerides into fatty acids, increasing muscle mass. Although a few studies demonstrated improvement in performance with the administration of GH, there is no convincing data to support the continued use of GH.
Current Research On Supplements
A prospective study investigated the effects of an intervention-based approach in reducing substance use and promoting a healthy lifestyle in female athletes from 19 schools. Schools were randomly assigned to either the intervention-based group or control group. The results were promising, demonstrating reduced substance use and an improvement in healthy behaviors in the intervention group compared to the controls.
There is no compelling data at the moment that supports the use of substances such as supplements, steroids, and hormone therapy to improve performance in adults. Safety studies have shown potential long-term side effects with limited benefits.
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The abuse of substances such as supplements, steroids, and hormone therapy in adults to improve performance continues to be a serious issue around the world. Therefore, physicians need to educate their patients on possible harmful effects and provide patients with other alternatives.