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Teens go to extremes to build muscle, study finds

More teens are using muscle enhancing products such as steroids and protein powders to bulk up, according to a new study published Monday in Pediatrics.

“These behaviors are a little more common among young people than we previously thought,” said lead study author Dr. Marla Eisenberg. “We want to put it on the radar for pediatricians, parents and other people working with adolescents.”

Researchers at the University of Minnesota examined a diverse group of about 2,800 middle and high school students in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area. The study found that the behaviors were more common among boys than girls.

Two-thirds reported changing their diet to increase muscle size or tone. Nearly 35 percent said they used protein powders and shakes, while almost 6 percent reportedly used steroids. Twelve percent of boys and 6 percent of girls said they used three or more of these substances and/or behaviors.

Findings were based upon EAT (eating and activity in teens): a 2010 data analysis from a 235 question survey asking teens about their dietary intake, physical activity, weight status and control behaviors, among other related factors.

Researchers say images of men in the media have been getting more and more muscular over the past few decades, the Huffington Post reported. “At the same time, researchers say that exposure to extremely muscular models contributes to body dissatisfaction in boys.”

The authors of the study also found that obese or overweight girls are significantly more likely to use protein powders or shakes than girls of average BMI, ABC News reported.

Teens aren’t always aware that these behaviors can be harmful, Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician in Atlanta, told CNN.

“First thing to do is try to educate and say, ‘You know, I’m glad you are active and playing sports and trying to be happy. Just remember most kids don’t need protein supplements, or even energy drinks because they are getting the electrolytes in their diet,'” Shu says. “It’s good for parents to be aware because they might think it’s good and buy teens these protein powders.”

Rachel Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News. She has lived in London and is an English graduate from Brigham Young University. Contact her at or visit