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Kid's & Teen Health
over-the-counter medicines

Health Food Stores Recommend “Adult Use” OTC Supplements to Teens

Parent and grandparent alert! Fifteen year olds are not only able to buy over-the-counter dietary supplements from a sampling of health food stores across the country, the staff at those stores actually went so far as to recommend certain products, despite labels reading “for adult use only.”

A release from North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System notes that supplements are unregulated by the US Food & Drug Administration. Not only that, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against using body-shaping supplements for males and females under age 18. Yet, despite the adults-only labeling, minors can legally buy these products in 49 states.

Results of recent studies led by senior investigator Ruth Milanaik, DO, in which testers identifying themselves as 15-year-old boys and girls called 244 health food stores in 49 states (both independently owned and large-chain retailers) were the focus of three presentations in April 2015 at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in San Diego.

All three studies were conducted by Alexis E Tchaconas, BA; and college students Laura A Fletcher and Maguire Herriman. They were overseen by Andrew Adesman, MD, and Dr. Milanaik, both of Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY.

Dr. Milanaik said previous studies have shown the high prevalence of minors using these products — both athletes and non-athletes. It is the responsibility of all who are in a position to educate minors regarding supplement usage to be knowledgeable of the risks, she said.

Teenagers dealing with negative body images are increasingly turning to over-the-counter supplements, despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics to avoid such products, Dr. Milanaik said. She warned that health food store supplements are not always healthy, and health food store attendants are not always “experts” when selling well-known “fat burning” thermogenic products (such as Hydroxycut,and Shredzm), testosterone boosters, or products containing creatine.

Despite many testosterone boosters bearing warnings such as “for adult use only,” the team found that 41 percent of sales attendants told callers identifying themselves as 15-year-olds they could purchase a testosterone booster on their own. The findings are reported in a study entitled Over-the-Counter Testosterone Boosters and Underage Teens: Easy Access and Misinformation Provided by National Retailers.

Although testosterone boosters are specifically not recommended for children under age 18 unless for documented medical reasons, 9.8 percent of sales attendants recommended a testosterone booster, the study showed.