Are sports supplements safe?

2012-04-26 11:53:14 by Public Relations staff, as posted on the inside.akronchildrens.org blog.

Many athletes, particularly teens, often turn to “natural” supplements to give them a supposed competitive edge.

“The latest supplement to gain popularity is nitric oxide, which is taken to increase blood flow in the muscles,” said Joseph Congeni, MD, director of Akron Children’s Hospital’s Sports Medicine Center. “The problem with nitric oxide is that we don’t know the risks or how effective it actually is.”

One known side effect is severe headache, so Dr. Congeni often suspects nitric oxide use in athletes with frequent headaches. He’s also concerned about combination supplements that may contain hidden ingredients whose safety is unknown, as well as creatine, which has remained popular among athletes as a potential muscle builder, although it doesn’t work.

“While creatine may delay muscle fatigue during workouts, it can cause dehydration and cramping, as well as more serious kidney failure in rare cases,” Dr. Congeni said.

Natural sports supplements are legal and readily available in local health food and drug stores. Because they’re not regulated by the FDA, manufacturers are not required to test them for safety, effectiveness or purity of ingredients. Nor are they required to disclose all ingredients.

“Following a balanced diet and staying properly hydrated is much more effective. In fact, dehydration affects sports performance more than any other factor, which is another reason why supplements like creatine are so detrimental,” said Dr. Congeni.

A registered dietitian in Akron Children’s Sports Medicine Center can provide your athlete with a nutrition consult. For more information, call 330-543-8260.

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