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ATLAS Doesn't Shrug

Program targets sports supplements abuse by male high school students

(HealthDay) -- About 1 million teens have taken dangerous sports supplements, a trend that has many health experts worried.

One program, called ATLAS, has been designed to specifically tackle the abuse of sport supplements, according to an article from ABC News. Three of the most popular supplements are androstenedione, creatine and ephedra. Experts are concerned because their use can cause assorted problems, including hormonal imbalances, kidney problems and even death. Experts say some teens start with these supplements and sometimes move onto harder substances like steroids.

ATLAS stands for "Athletes Training and Learning to Avoid Steroids." It focuses on teaching high school boys healthy habits. It is a voluntary program and, the article says, has also helped to reduce alcohol and drug use among high school students. It is available in about half of the U.S. states. One program, involving more than 3,000 male high school football players in 31 schools, was studied from 1994 to 1997. By 1995, drug use had been cut in half.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is recommending that the program be used at schools throughout the country. Other experts are trying to adapt its use for the general student body. A sister program, ATHENA (Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise and Nutrition) also is being developed.

The program uses creative methods to get kids to take care of themselves. The focus is on improved performance, healthy nutrition and proper training. Sometimes there are additional benefits as well. Some schools improved their won-loss records -- along with the kids' self-images.

To find out more about the debate over sports supplements, you can read this article from The Sporting News, or this one from CNN.

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