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SCIENCE REPORT – September 26, 2001: Sports Drugs - 2001-09-25

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

A new study says many young people in the United States take substances that claim to make people perform sports better. The study says that about one-million Americans between the ages of twelve and seventeen years old have used these sports supplements. One in five young people questioned said they know someone who uses the sports supplements. People can buy them at stores that sell vitamins.

The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association carried out the study. Researchers questioned almost one-thousand-eight-hundred Americans by telephone. Seven-hundred-eighty-five of them were young people between the ages of ten and seventeen. Blue Cross researchers used the findings to estimate national use of the sports supplements.

The study found that children as young as ten years old use sports supplements. The researchers estimate that three-hundred-ninety-thousand children between the ages of ten and fourteen have used the products.

Those questioned identified creatine as the most common supplement. The body produces creatine naturally. Some famous American athletes use products with creatine to increase the strength of their muscles. In the United States, the substance is sold legally in candy and other foods.

However, creatine also has been linked to health problems. One doctor noted that the substance causes stomach pain and diarrhea. He said it also has been linked to muscle injury and kidney problems.

A trade group for supplement makers said it believes that creatine is safe, when taken by someone responsible. The trade group says there is a large amount of evidence that shows creatine is helpful for healthy people.

Seventy percent of the young people questioned in the study could not identify any harmful effects that might result from using sports supplements. Yet ninety-six percent of them believed that people who use the supplements face the possibility of some health damage.

Blue Cross officials urged American parents and teachers to educate children about the issue. They also urged the government to take action to limit marketing and sales of supplements to young people.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by George Grow.