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Japanese teens differ among sexes when choosing supplements, says study

A recent study carried out in Japan has reported that among older teenagers who consume dietary supplements, males are most likely to look for sports-enhancing benefits, whilst females are most likely to favor products related to weight-loss.


The latest study was carried out among teens from 15 to 18 years old by researchers at the National Institute of Health and Nutrition. The investigation was undertaken nationwide and surveyed 1,031 high school students (276 male and 755 female).

The authors aimed to examine the differences in perceptions and usages of dietary supplements among so-called "active and passive users", and spot the main trends and differences between the sexes.

Findings suggest that 30.8 percent of males use dietary supplements. This is compared to 26.7 percent of females. Among those who took supplements, 42.4 percent of males were defined as active users, which meant that they purchased the supplements on their own, whilst for females the figure was 43.8 percent.

Among these active users, males used supplements in the most part for health maintenance, increased stamina and to enhance athletic performance. The authors said,"Sports and exercise habits were significantly associated with the use of dietary supplements."

"Among active users, the purpose of using supplements was the maintenance of health, the enhancement of stamina, and the enhancement of athletic performance. Therefore, they used proteins and amino acids and individual minerals such as calcium, zinc and iron."

Meanwhile, female high school students in Japan were found to use supplements more for health and weight-loss purposes rather than due to sports-related factors. Among those active users, approximately 20 percent of females used supplements for weight loss.

Some past studies have found a prevalence of 41 percent to 68.8 percent in dieting behavior among women in Japan which tallies with the high preference for weight management supplements.

Researchers added, "A desire to lose weight quickly without making an effort to change dietary and exercise habits may drive females to want to use weight-loss supplements while believing completely in their safety and having no knowledge of their potential danger."

However, the authors warned,"Supplements marketed for weight-loss may be adulterated with undeclared non-approved drug ingredients, resulting in adverse or negative effects."

"Compared to passive users and non-users, more active users believed that dietary supplements were safe and that word of mouth from other users was trustworthy,"said researchers.

"There seems to be a trend by active users towards obtaining information primarily from the internet and TV, overly trusting the safety of dietary supplements, and purchasing supplements of choice."

Similarly in Japanese people who are older, weight-loss supplements are popular among women while men favor performance-related supplements, too.

The study had some limitations. However, researchers believed the latest study,"is the first to report dietary supplement use that is focused on the level of activity of the user."

They suggest, "Since supplement users, and particularly active users, are vulnerable to convincing words on the internet and TV and overlook safety issues, dietary education, including healthy eating and the appropriate use of supplements, should be provided."

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