According to a recent study, legal over-the-counter supplements may harm men’s emotional or physiological health.
This preliminary study was presented Thursday at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention. It recruited 195 men ages 18 to 65 who went to the gym at least twice a week and regularly consumed performance-enhancing supplements (whey protein, creatine and L-carnitine).
These men answered questions about their supplement use as well as their body image, self-esteem, eating habits and gender roles.
Richard Achiro, lead author of the study and a registered psychological assistant at a private practice in Los Angeles, said, “The heyday for illicit supplements for the average man is over. The bulky Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone are not what most men are seeking to achieve now. They want to be both muscular and lean, and it makes sense that [legal supplements] are what they’re using or abusing.”
Achiro saw the effect of supplements throughout college and graduate school when his male friends used supplements before or after workouts.
“It became more and more ubiquitous,” Achiro says. “Guys around my age who I knew — I’d go to their apartment and see a tub of some kind of [protein] powder.”
The study showed that forty percent of participants wanted more supplements over time, while 22 percent were replacing regular meals with dietary supplements. Physicians asked eight percent of participants to cut back on supplement use because of health side effects, and 3 percent were hospitalized for related kidney or liver problems, which can be caused by excessive use of protein powders and other supplements.
“This isn’t just about the body,” Achiro says, “What this is really about is what the body represents for these men. It seems that the findings in part [show] this is a way of compensating for their insecurity or low self-esteem.”
Although the research is preliminary, Achiro is hopeful that his research is taken into consideration by more people to prevent further damage.