Teens Receiving Inaccurate Information on Supplements

Posted 19 April 2017

A new study shows that teenage boys are frequently encouraged to use creatine and testosterone boosters by sales attendants at health food stores, despite American Academy of Pediatrics’ warnings.

Researchers pretending to be 15-year-old high school athletes asked sales attendants at 244 health food stores across the United States for advice on how to increase muscle strength. Creatine was recommended by 67.2% of the stores, 38.5% of which provided the recommendation without being asked specifically, while 28.7% recommended creatine when asked directly if it was not initially suggested. Furthermore, 74.2% of sales attendants stated that a 15-year-old could purchase creatine without a parent. Testosterone boosters were recommended by 9.8% of sales attendants. Study authors suggested that pediatricians should be educating teenage patients, particularly athletes, about these products and discourage their use.


Herriman M, Fletcher L, Tchaconas A, et al. Dietary Supplements and Young Teens: Misinformation and Access Provided by Retailers. Pediatrics. 2017. pii: e20161257. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-1257.

Pediatrics. 2017 Feb;139(2). pii: e20161257. doi: 10.1542/peds.2016-1257. Epub 2017 Jan 2.

Dietary Supplements and Young Teens: Misinformation and Access Provided by Retailers.

Herriman M1, Fletcher L1, Tchaconas A1, Adesman A1, Milanaik R2.



Despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations against pediatric use of creatine and testosterone boosters, research suggests that many young teenagers take these dietary supplements. Our objective was to determine to what extent health food stores would recommend and/or sell creatine and testosterone boosters to a 15-year-old boy customer.


Research personnel posing as 15-year-old high school athletes seeking to increase muscle strength contacted 244 health food stores in the United States via telephone. Researchers asked the sales attendant what supplements he/she would recommend. If a sales attendant did not mention creatine or testosterone boosters initially, each of these supplements was then specifically asked about. Supplement recommendations were recorded. Sales attendants were also asked if a 15-year-old could purchase these products on his own in the store.


A total of 67.2% (164/244) of sales attendants recommended creatine: 38.5% (94/244) recommended creatine without prompting, and an additional 28.7% (70/244) recommended creatine after being asked specifically about it. A total of 9.8% (24/244) of sales attendants recommended a testosterone booster. Regarding availability for sale, 74.2% (181/244) of sales attendants stated a 15-year-old was allowed to purchase creatine, whereas 41.4% (101/244) stated one could purchase a testosterone booster.


Health food store employees frequently recommend creatine and testosterone boosters for boy high school athletes. In response to these findings, pediatricians should inform their teenage patients, especially athletes, about safe, healthy methods to improve athletic performance and discourage them from using creatine or testosterone boosters. Retailers and state legislatures should also consider banning the sale of these products to minors.

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