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Dietary Supplements: Do They Add Strength?

Did a popular dietary supplement help St. Louis Cardinal slugger Mark McGwire break baseball's home run record? There is no evidence either way, according to David Pearson, a researcher at the Human Performance Laboratory, Ball State University, Muncie, Ind., speaking for the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He says the NSCA's position is that more research is needed to determine whether supplements such as androstenedione actually enhance athletic performance.

McGwire's pursuit of the home run record was tainted to some extent by reports that he uses the testosterone-producing supplement androstenedione. Although the over-the-counter substance is banned by the National Basketball Association and National Football League, it is legal in Major League Baseball.

The NSCA's view on androstenedione, according to Pearson, chairman of its subcommittee on nutrition, is not that the jury is still out. Rather, the jury has yet to be seated. "We can't support or rebuke the effectiveness or safety of androstenedione because there is no body of scientific literature upon which to draw any conclusions."

The NSCA opposes the use of any illegal substance for the purpose of enhancing athletic performance, he emphasizes. The association also supports the right of sports governing bodies to control over-the-counter supplement use by professional and amateur athletes. "However, the NSCA encourages more scientific research on many of the claims made for over-the-counter performance supplements. Research should also determine any short- or long-term health risks associated with these supplements."

Many athletes claim enhanced performance through use of the amino acid derivative creatine monohydrate, commonly known as creatine. Pearson indicates that the NSCA acknowledges and generally supports scientific research showing creatine to have a positive effect on weight gain. Moreover, it has been demonstrated to increase strength and power measurements in controlled short-term studies with athletes. "But it should be noted that there have been no long-term studies which can support or rebuke the effects this supplement has on physical health and performance."
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Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Dec 1, 1998
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