Teens Are Using Health-Threatening Steroids, Supplements to Appear More ‘Attractive’


Many teens are concerned about their looks. Some take steps to alter their looks in the interest of being – or at least appearing to be – healthy. Unfortunately, some five percent of American teens are using enhancements of questionable value, and potentially risky, in order to make themselves look more attractive, though not necessarily healthier.

A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a new report that kids taking steroids, protein powders, diet pills and similar substances are, in the interest of a false sense of ‘glamour’, “manliness,’ ‘strength’ or some other attribute, actually putting their health – and their lives – at risk.

“Doctors think of performance-enhancing substance use as an athlete problem, but many non-athletes are using these substances for appearance enhancement,” said Dr. Michele LaBotz, a report co-author of the new study.

In reporting on the study published this month (June) in the journal Pediatrics, HealthDay said boys go for protein supplements, caffeine, steroids and creatine, which revs up energy in cells. Nonprescription weight-loss supplements are popular among girls, the researchers reported.

Over-the-counter supplements, which were deregulated in 1994, are the substances used most often by teens, LaBotz said. Studies have shown many are contaminated with toxic heavy metals, such as lead and mercury, or steroids and stimulants like amphetamines, she added.

The report urges doctors to educate parents and teens about the dangers of these supplements and discourage their use.

“Substances spiked with stimulants put you at higher risk for cardiovascular problems,” said LaBotz, a sports medicine physician from South Portland, Maine. “If you are one of the many teens already on stimulants for ADHD, you’re compounding the risk of heart problems.”

Steroids are obviously dangerous, too, LaBotz added. “A lot of the effects of steroids are irreversible, including stunted growth and the growth of male breasts — gynecomastia. These don’t go away when you stop putting steroids in your body,” she noted.

In addition, steroids can cause severe acne, and suddenly stopping them can result in depression and heightened risk of suicide, she said.

There are other concerns about supplements. Many studies have found performance-enhancing supplements are a gateway to using drugs and alcohol and participating in other risky behaviors, LaBotz said.

Based on U.S. surveys of eighth- through 12th-grade students, 5 percent to 7 percent of teen boys use steroids, as many as one in five use creatine, and 20 percent take protein supplements, LaBotz said. Many kids using protein supplements aren’t playing sports, the report said.

For most teens, these supplements build no more muscle than what naturally occurs with puberty and a good diet and exercise program, LaBotz said.

Much of the supplement use is driven by the supplement industry and popular culture, LaBotz said. Fitness and health magazines that promote bodybuilding attract teens at risk for using performance-enhancing substances, she said.

One physician faults the culture that promotes a muscled and trim appearance as desirable.

“As long as top athletes make use of such substances, they will propagate the inclination in young people looking on,” said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center at Yale University, and president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

Professional athletes may not have signed up to be role models, but that comes with the power of success and celebrity, he said.

“Professional sports and society at large should do everything possible to ensure that these ambassadors of peak human performance model only healthy, legitimate means to those ends,” Katz said.

These substances lead to health risks more often than they offer any meaningful performance or appearance enhancement, he added.

The pediatricians’ group hopes the report will spur discussions about the harms of supplement use. “Often, doctors avoid talking about supplements with kids because it’s something they don’t know a lot about,” LaBotz said.

Parents have a role to play too, she said. “They have a lot of influence and they should know what their teens are taking and should discourage the use of these supplements,” she said.

The report was published online June 27 in the journal Pediatrics.


Rubbish-Sourced Running Tracks Are Poisoning 1000’s of Chinese Kids


China’s Ministry of Education has said it will tear up running tracks at schools that have been blamed for making students ill.

In China, where a recent survey revealed that around 20 percent of the country’s arable land is contaminated, and air pollution in some cities is so bad that merely venturing outdoors poses a danger to your health, another form of pollution is threatening the short- and long-term health of school children who use running tracks. “Poison runways,” as the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China said in a recent CCTV report.

Synthetic (rubberized or rubber-like) tracks at many schools are made from industrial waste—including recycled tires, cables and wire. A frightening large number of children using such tracks have developed health issues that could, conceivably, be long-lasting and/or precursors of cancer of one type or another. (Leukemia has already been reported in at least one province with the ‘poison runways.’”

A CCTV report earlier this week noted that numerous students at the Beijing Second Experimental Primary School have suffered nosebleeds, dizziness and “similar problems” that seem to be attributable to the “plastic [running] track [that] exudes [a] pungent smell.”

The report says that school’s situation is far from an isolated case: “Not just in Beijing, odorous ‘runways’ have been observed across the country  for at least two years.” (The preceding sentence is an ‘approximate’ English translation of the report on CCTV’s web site. That report, in the show ‘The Economic Half Hour,’ was entitled “Who created the poison runway?”

CCTV said an investigation has been launched to discover the source of the problem, but a report in today’s New York Times suggests the fault isn’t hard to find: Subcontractors who built the tracks are said to have used sub-standard materials – below, it would seem, the ‘standard’ quality of “recycled tires, cables and wire” – and also, The Times said, “violated safety rules.”

A rambling report from the Ministry of Education – rambling, at least, in the Google translation to English – notes at one point that “there is no standards and industry standards” regulating the production or installation of sports-related equipment (including tracks).”

As well as demanding the establishment of “effective measures” to address the existing problem, the Ministry decreed that schools or school districts should “establish standards and implementation to further promote the improvement and implementation of standards.”

The Chinese, not being a God-fearing people, probably don’t understand the phrase “from your lips to God’s ear.” Also being more respecting of people in theory than in practice, Chinese authorities may, or may not, ensure appropriate changes are made to protect, in at least this way, the children who are their future.

25% of Kids’ Concussions Aren’t Officially Diagnosed


Concussions – “traumatic brain injuries that alter the way the brain functions” (as per The Mayo Clinic) – have been increasingly in the news in recent years, mostly because an increasing number of current and former professional and high school football players are suffering severe effects from them.

So, as it happens, are a great many children: Close to two million teenagers and younger children suffer concussions annually, according to results of a study released recently.

Using data from hospitals, doctor visits and athletic trainers, the investigators estimated between 1 million and 1.9 million concussions occur annually among kids aged 18 and younger due to sports and recreation injuries.

But more than half a million of these head injuries aren’t seen in emergency rooms or by physicians, which is why official tallies are usually too low, they noted.

“There is a lot of uncertainty in how many concussions from sports and recreation occur each year because many concussions are not reported,” explained lead researcher Dr. Mersine Alexis Bryan, a pediatrician at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital.

“Better surveillance for concussions due to sports and recreational activities is needed, so we can understand how kids are getting concussions and ways we can prevent concussions,” Bryan added.

These head injuries are often serious.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a blow to the head resulting in concussion can stretch and damage brain cells and create chemical changes in the brain.

For this study, researchers used three national databases to try to target the total number of childhood concussions. Other research has typically been limited to high school head injuries or ER visits, they noted.

They found that among children diagnosed with concussion, nearly 378,000 were seen by doctors; from 115,000 to 167,000 were treated in emergency rooms; and roughly 3,000 to 5,000 were hospitalized, the researchers found.

But between 500,000 and 1.2 million concussions were reported to certified athletic trainers, the researchers added. These accounted for 23 percent to 53 percent of sports- and recreation-related concussions among high school students, Bryan said.

Concussions were tagged as sports-related if medical records mentioned a sport, whether the injury was from a fall, collision or another mechanism. Head injuries were deemed recreation-related if they occurred in playground-type settings or during activities such as bicycling or skateboarding.

One brain specialist said that even these new estimates are likely way too low.

Dr. John Kuluz, director of traumatic brain injury and neurorehabilitation at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, said doctors’ coding errors on medical forms can result in questionable findings.

“The main problem I have with these estimates is that they are based on diagnostic codes,” he said. “Many doctors do not use the code for concussion. I see it time and again — they use a code like ‘closed head injury’, because it’s easier to click on.”

If researchers only look for the concussion code, they’ll miss a lot, Kuluz said.

A study published in May in the journal JAMA Pediatrics also found that many childhood concussions go unreported.

In that report, four out of five children were diagnosed at a primary care practice, not the emergency department.

Responding to that report, Dr. Debra Houry, a CDC injury specialist, said more must be done to track pediatric concussions treated outside the ER.

“Better estimates of the number, causes and outcomes of concussion will allow us to more effectively prevent and treat them, which is a priority area for CDC’s Injury Center,” Houry said.


Embedded Poetry Enhances Royal Vietnamese Buildings


Embedding poetry within the architectural structure of buildings most certainly is an unusual way of displaying and preserving patriotic art.  The province of Thua Thien-Hue in Vietnam recently cited such ‘art’ as “a documentary heritage of the Memory of the World Committee for Asia and the Pacific (MOWCAP). Poetry drawn on and embedded in architecture in the province also has met the criteria in the registry dossiers formed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

It was not until it was recognized as an UNESCO heritage that the royal literature collection caught the attention of cultural researchers. In the early 1980s, experts from the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre started conducting research and translating poems carved on the Hue Royal Architecture for decoration purposes under the Nguyen Dynasty. The Nguyen Dynasty (1802-1945) was the last royal dynasty of Vietnam.

According to Dr. Phan Thanh Hai, Director of the Hue Monuments Conservation Centre, the poetry on the Hue royal architecture includes Chinese-language scripts in the form of poems that were meticulously carved onto clusters of three wooden plates and wooden walls build during the Nguyen Dynasty.

Particularly notable is the ‘one Poem and One Painting’ decoration style on the Hue royal architecture, which was formed and developed during the Nguyen Dynasty and became the court’s rule in decorating royal architecture from then on.

Literary works in the Hue royal architecture reflect the thoughts of the Nguyen kings on history, national independence, culture, governance and welfare. Many experts, researchers, and cultural managers evaluated the works as special decorative arts that had been made and preserved in Ha Tinh province. The heritage is unique in the world with diverse contents found on different materials, including wood, stone, bronze, enamel, ceramics and lacquer.

AMA: Sleep In, Kids (Most Teens Get Too Little)

sleepy+high schoolers
Male high school student asleep in class

The American Medical Association has recommended that middle and high school students’ days should start later – as late as 8:30 a.m. – in the interests of enabling teens to get more sleep than most currently do. Early class start-times, often early than 7:30 a.m., is a serious contributor to the fact that, rather than getting the 8.5-9.5 they should for their physical and mental health, many teens go to school sleep deprived, affecting both their attention span and their overall ability to comprehend what’s being taught.

The new policy, adopted at AMA’s recent annual meeting in Chicago, also states that doctors need to educate parents, teachers, school officials and others about the importance of sleep for teens’ physical and mental health.

“Sleep deprivation is a growing public health issue affecting our nation’s adolescents, putting them at risk for mental, physical and emotional distress and disorders,” AMA board member Dr. William Kobler said in an association news release.

“Scientific evidence strongly suggests that allowing adolescents more time for sleep at the appropriate hours results in improvements in health, academic performance, behavior, and general well-being,” Kobler said.

Recent research shows that only 32 percent of American teens get at least eight hours of sleep on an average school night. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that teens aged 14 to 17 should get 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep per night for optimal health and learning.

Currently, nearly 10 percent of U.S. high schools start at or before 7:30 a.m., the AMA said.

“We believe delaying school start times will help ensure middle and high school students get enough sleep, and that it will improve the overall mental and physical health of our nation’s young people,” Kobler said.

“While implementing a delayed school start time can be an emotional and potentially stressful issue for school districts, families and members of the community,” Kobler added, “the health benefits for adolescents far outweigh any potential negative consequences.”


Bike Thief Captured by Rope-Tossing Cowboy


Robert Borba, a 28-year old rancher, stopped a would-be bicycle thief at an Oregon Walmart parking lot by lassoing the suspect. With his lariat still in place around the legs of the suspect, identified by police as a transient named Victorino Arellano-Sanchez, 22, Borba dragged the man to an isolated end of the parking lot and held him, tied up, until police arrived.

Hardly surprisingly, the very surprised officers told the Medford Mail Tribune that this was the first time ever they’d seen a suspect lassoed. And Arellano-Sanchez’s look of surprise at being chased by a man on horseback “was priceless,” Borba told the Mail Tribune.

Borba had stopped at the Walmart on his way to help a friend brand some cattle in Davis Creek, CA. When he heard a woman scream that someone was stealing her bike, he quickly got his horse, Long John, from the trailer attached to his truck, grabbed a rope and took off after the biker, who was at the time struggling with the gears.

“I seen this fella trying to get up to speed on a bicycle,” Borba told the Tribune. “I wasn’t going to catch him on foot. I just don’t run very fast.”

Borba said the man tried to grab a tree and get away, but he kept the rope tight and the man in place.

“I use a rope every day, that’s how I make my living,” Borba said. “If it catches cattle pretty good, it catches a bandit pretty good.”

Eagle Point police Sgt. Darin May said officers arrived and found the lassoed man and bike on the ground in the parking lot.

“We’ve never had anyone lassoed and held until we got there,” May said. “That’s a first for me.”

Police arrested Arellano-Sanchez, whom they described as a transient from the Seattle area, on a theft charge. The suspect is jailed in Jackson County, OR. Staff members at the jail say they don’t think he has an attorney.

Kids Smoking, Having Sex Less But Phone Abuse Still An Issue


A week before the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) announced that teen smokers are fewer in number than ever, a University of North Carolina survey reported that there is a growing feeling, nationwide, that the legal smoking age should be raised – perhaps to as high as 21.

The rule makers might want to ensure that e-cigarettes, or vapes, are including in a higher-age change, because while smoking of actual cigarettes is down, the use of vapes is increasing – even among young people who would supposedly never consider actual cigarette-smoking.

The CDC report said last week that tobacco use among high schoolers was down in 2015 to a record low of roughly one in ten. In 1991, roughly one in four in that age group smoked.

The CDC also said, in the same National Youth Risk and Behavior Study, that premarital sex is down among teens, as is soda consumption and the illegal use of prescription drugs.

Now, if they could be convinced that texting and or conversing on the phone while driving is anything but a good idea, we’d be making progress!

The National Youth Risk and Behavior Study included responses from more than 15,000 high school students. It is likely that this survey is conducted along the same lines as NSDUH, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. which is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Several years ago, I was part of the survey team for NSDUH.

Surveyors visit randomly selected homes across the country and, when the occupants are willing to be part of the survey (and receive a nominal fee – presently $30 – for their time), select bits of information are entered by the surveyor into a small hand-held computer. Then, the participant is shown how s/he and other members of the family will enter answers to the confidential part of the survey into the computer.

Part of the reason for this elaborate process is to assure teens, for example, that regardless of what they say to the computer, their parents will no more about their sexual, smoking or other activities than they already did.

The NSDUH study – which is contracted out to RTI International, based in the North Carolina Research Triangle encompassing Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill – is a very expensive annual project. Potential survey team members are flown to a centrally-located city, put up for a week in a high-end hotel, and rigorously trained all day every day. Study procedures are intended to be followed religiously by surveyors – a fact that is stressed by the week’s instructors.

Still, after passing the really tough ‘final exam’ at the Cincinnati training hotel, I washed out in the field because I failed to stick to one basic rule: Because the territory I was assigned was a two-hour drive from my home, tended to stay in the field more hours per day than the program wanted me to. I thought that by avoiding multiple trips back at different times of the day to try to catch someone – anyone – at a selected home, I’d keep rotating around the ‘not home’ addresses and, as a result, racking up more hours than were permitted. It seemed to me that my approach beat the hell out of wasting four hours on the road – time for which I wasn’t being paid, anyway! – it made more sense to simply cool it somewhere (a restaurant, a gas station, anywhere) until there was a better chance someone I’d been unable to find before would be home.

The powers that be – in the form of the woman who was running my team – said she’d never ever encountered such a blatant breaching of the rules… and I was kicked off the team.

The lesson: If you find yourself working for an entity with a really cushy subsidy from the government, play by whatever rules they establish – or don’t, and quit.

RTI International has a number of cushy government projects tightly tied up. And the ultimate powers that be there are not about to let that applecart get upset.

Many organizations and companies benefit from the work produced through the NSDUH study. Chances are they would gain just as much if the budget on this project, and the rules for getting the work done in a cost-efficient way, were dramatically altered.

This is not just a ‘we’ve always done it this way’ issue: It’s a common sense one.

A lot of the issue with ‘out of control government spending’ boils down the same thing: Somebody, in a lot of departments, is not paying attention to how money is being spent – and, too often, squandered.

It’s nice to know that fewer teens are smoking, or having (probably unprotected) sex. It’s encouraging to know that an apparently growing number of are people so fed up with being forced to walk through clouds of inconsiderate smokers stench and poison that they are, at long last, anxious enough to hit smokers so hard in the wallet that they’ll get smart and quit.

Don’t tell me it can’t be done: I’ve done it twice! (Even after a number of years of abstinence, I found it way to easy to slip back to being a smoker. But the second ‘quit’ did for me. Full disclosure: I did relapse once, for a fraction of a day, when I was a situation that was both stressful and unacceptably dangerous.

I started smoking  when I was 11 or 12. I quit for the last time when I was, I think, in my fifties. Every once in a while, I still get the urge. It’s a nasty habit – made worse by the fact that the tobacco giants do all they can, including adding poisonous chemicals to cigarette tobacco, to get, and keep, you hooked.

If you smoke, consider two things: [1] the amount of money you’re wasting on a bad habit, and [2] the health benefits of quitting.

Do the research!