These included “an over-reliance on industry to provide accurate product and manufacturing site testing, no age restrictions on product purchasing and use, no warning labels on products related to known risks, and lack of regulatory control from individual provincial health ministries”, the authors write in the journal Performance Enhancement and Health.
Muscle-building supplements commonly used by young people
Muscle-building dietary supplements, such as whey protein, creatine monohydrate, and amino acids, are commonly used among young people, particularly boys and young men, due to their purported benefits in aiding muscular growth and recovery.
However, these products – which are regulated by the Natural Health Products Regulations under Health Canada – are correlated with many adverse health effects, according to the policy analysis.
“We identified many gaps in the current policy that put young people at risk,” said Kyle T Ganson, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. “Namely, there lacks a serious and consistent method of ensuring manufacturing sites and products are safe and unadulterated or contaminated.”
Muscle-building supplements ‘widely available and easily accessible’ despite adulteration potential
More than 80% of boys and young men report using whey protein and more than 50% report using creatine monohydrate, according to the authors’ previous research.
“These dietary supplements are widely available and easily accessible despite the potential for being adulterated with banned substances,” said Ganson. “We also know that use of muscle-building dietary supplements is linked with eating disorders, muscle dysmorphia, illicit substance use, and future use of anabolic-androgenic steroids.”
The gave some pre- and post-market recommendations to strengthen policy to protect the health and wellbeing of Canadians.
“Several strategies may be used to deter use, such as imposing a tax to these supplements, as well as restricting sale to those under 18 years old,” said Ganson.
The researchers also recommend enhanced pre- and post-market testing of manufacturing sites and products, increased ability for Health Canada to recall products, and improved monitoring of adverse events.
“Given the gaps, specific policy recommendations are provided to strengthen the current policy, reduce use, and minimise negative effects of use. There is an urgent need to strengthen Canadian regulations of muscle-building supplements to protect the health and wellbeing of young people,” they conclude.