An increasing number of men are overusing body-building supplements in an attempt to meet the modern ideal of masculinity, researchers reported at the American Psychological Association annual meeting.
Low-self esteem and poor body image are also driving men to take the supplements. The trend signals an emerging eating disorder among men, according to the researchers from Alliant International University in Los Angeles.
Popular supplements among men include whey protein, creatine and L-cartinine, Reuters reports.
They are used to increase energy and build lean tissue mass. The supplements are popular among gym members, and are sold in grocery stores, vitamin shops and online.
The researchers warn overusing these products can be dangerous. "Men are using the supplements in a way that is risky both to their physical health and their health in terms of relationships and their own emotional wellbeing," said study author Richard Achiro. "It is an expression, or variance, of eating disorder behavior in these men."
Achiro noted the supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They can cause diarrhea and kidney failure, he said.
In his study, Achiro found that among almost 200 men who took the supplements in the past month, 29 percent expressed concern about using them. Forty percent said their use increased over time, and 8 percent said their doctors told them to cut back or stop.
In addition, 22 percent of the men said they replaced regular meals with dietary supplements not intended to be meal replacements. Three percent had been hospitalized for kidney or liver problems that were related to the use of supplements.
"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," Achiro said in a news release.