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‘These products have become an almost ubiquitous fixture in the pantries of young men’www.gymprofessor.com

Such a vast amount of men are turning to over-the-counter bodybuilding supplements that it has reached a point where it may qualify as an emerging eating disorder, according to a new report. Researchers from the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University drafted in 195 men aged 18-65 who had taken legal appearance and performance-enhancers within the past month, and who claimed to work out for fitness or appearance-related reasons at least twice a week.

Co-authors Richard Achiro and Peter Theodore found that more than 40% of partakers said that their use of supplements had increased over time, with 22% saying that they regularly used them as meal replacements, a use for which they are not intended. What the authors noted as the biggest cause for concern was that 29% said that they were worried about the amount they use, with 8% saying that their physician had told them to cut down or stop using them completely. More worryingly, 3% had been hospitalised for kidney or liver problems related to the use of these supplements, according to the research presented at the American Psychological Association's annual convention.

"These products have become an almost ubiquitous fixture in the pantries of young men across the country and can seemingly be purchased anywhere and everywhere – from grocery stores to college book stores," said Achiro. "The marketing efforts, which are tailored to addressing underlying insecurities associated with masculinity, position these products perfectly as a 'solution' by which to fill a void felt by so many men in our culture.

"The most critical implication for these findings is to put risky/excessive legal supplement use on the map as an issue facing a significant number of men. Body-conscious men who are driven by psychological factors to attain a level of physical or masculine 'perfection' are prone to use these supplements and drugs in a manner that is excessive and which was demonstrated in this study to be a variant of disordered eating.

"As legal supplements become increasingly prevalent around the globe, it is all the more important to assess and treat the psychological causes and effects of excessive use of these drugs and supplements."