HEADLINES Published April30, 2015 By Bernadette Strong

Health Food Stores Often Recommend Adult-Only Supplements to Teens

(Photo : Christopher Furlong, Getty Images )

Many supplements intended for bodybuilders and for dieters carry labels stating they should only be used by adults, but employees at health food stores apparently recommend them to teens on a regular basis. The use of these products by anyone under age 18 is legal in almost every state, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against their use by teens.

This finding is from three studies conducted at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. The researchers had people call 244 health stores in 49 and identify themselves as 15-year-olds. They then asked about products that are sold as testosterone boosters or as aids in weight loss. In one study, 41% of store employees told the supposed teens that they could buy testosterone boosters. Nearly 10% of the employees recommended a specific product said to boost testosterone. Store employees also recommended weight-loss products labeled for adults to callers who identified themselves as teen girls.

Testosterone boosters should not be used by anyone under age 18 except for medical purposes.

The telephone calls were made to both chain health food stores and independent stores.

The studies were lead by Dr. Ruth Milanaik of Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY, and were presented recently at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting.

"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,'" Milanaik said, in a statement from North Shore-LIJ. "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."

Milanaik called for greater education for health store employees. "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," she said.

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