Researchers assess views on sports supplements among physically-active gym members in Israel to determine their safety and risk perception among users.
The past three decades have shown an increase in the use of sports supplements worldwide. Despite the prevalent use of sports supplements in gyms, there remains a lack of consistent information surrounding the full effects of these supplements. For instance, American supplement companies must register their product with the Food and Drug Administration, but final FDA approval is not required to produce or sell the product. In Israel, sports dietary supplements (SDS) are regulated under food laws, and the leniency therein does little to label products that could be deemed harmful.
This research study sought to understand how risk perception influences SDS use in gym members, fitness trainers, and dieticians. Researchers conducted semi-structured 45-minute long interviews with gym members in central Israel between 2014 and 2015. An equal mixture of 19 male and 15 female members were asked questions about risk perception, SDS information source and credibility, and authority status (relating to influence). The results were recently published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.
The answers showed that gym members echoed friends and family in their general ideas about weighing risk against benefits. Information was obtained more from social circles and less from fitness instructors or dieticians. When questioned about the social normative impact of SDS consumption, most gym members were exposed to friends and family members already using them, thus normalizing the gym member’s use.
There was a significant gap in the risk perception among gym members, trainers, and dieticians. Gym members generally perceived dietary supplements to be risk-free. Trainers were aware that there may be some risk involved with sports supplements but were unaware of the specific risks, and generally believed that the benefits outweighed the risks. Dieticians were much more cautious in their approach to sports supplements.
The conclusions of the study provided more understanding as to why sports supplements use is so widespread. Communicated risk and professional advice, in this case, was always outweighed by a trusted social network or a member’s own perceived risk. While limited in it data size and scope, this study could provide the Health Ministry of Israel a basis for raising awareness concerning supplement sales, usage, and product information.
Written by Patrick Powers, BSc
Reference: Druker and Gesser-Edelsburg. “Identifying and assessing views among physically-active adult gym members in Israel on dietary supplements.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2017;14:37. doi 10.1186/s12970-017-0194-7