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Lack of awareness, regulations contributing to misuse of supplements

Three months ago, Mudit Mathur, 18, started taking food supplements to make an impression in an inter-college body building event. As competition day approached, the teenager started to lose weight, becoming a source of worry for the family.

other sports Updated: Feb 17, 2016 12:27 IST
Navneet Singh
Mudit Mathur’s case highlights the poor awareness about supplements, and the lack of regulations to check adulteration.
Mudit Mathur’s case highlights the poor awareness about supplements, and the lack of regulations to check adulteration.(Representative photo: Shutterstock)

If only that bicep could be half an inch bigger, those abs a little more pronounced. Maybe a little supplement on the side would help. Perhaps a spoonful after breakfast, another few during the day? But why turn to a box with a hunk of a man on the label when you could just eat healthier meals? Specially when these could do you more harm than good?

Three months ago, Mudit Mathur, 18, started taking food supplements to make an impression in an inter-college body building event. As competition day approached, the teenager started to lose weight, becoming a source of worry for the family.

“We were surprised at what was happening,” said Mudit’s father Virender. Over the last two months, the six-footer has apparently lost 18 kg. “These days Mudit barely weighs 55 kg and is undergoing treatment,” said the father.

In the build-up to the competition, Mudit’s friend advised him to take supplements. Initially, things were fine but then Mudit started complaining of an upset stomach. “It got worse and we stopped the supplements,” said Virender.

After eight weeks, things were finally under control. Besides spending a huge amount on treatment, it was a nightmare for the family.

Currently, Mudit is undergoing Ayurvedic treatment and is on a frugal diet of butter milk and ‘jowar roti’. “He has been advised to follow the diet for at least two weeks,” said Virender.

Mudit’s case highlights the poor awareness about supplements, and the lack of regulations to check adulteration.

Both novice and international-level athletes spend at least Rs 5000 per month on supplements. In some cases, it even goes up to Rs 10,000 or more. A Sports Authority of India (SAI) coach said they didn’t interfere with what the athletes consumed because many times, if one tested positive for a banned substance, the axe fell on the coach for suggesting a particular brand or product. “The situation is quite complex,” he said.

According to Vishal Chaturvedi, a former international power lifter and fitness consultant, the health and fitness industry is yet to involve dieticians/nutritionists, who are important members of the support staff for top sportspersons. “It’s important to take supplements under proper supervision otherwise it could do more harm than good,” he said.

Former lifter Surinder Kumar, who now deals in supplements, said depending on the brand, a kilogram of whey protein could cost between Rs 1200-3500. There are other dietary supplements, including pre-workout and post-workout health drinks.

Surinder said he had witnessed a spurt in demand. “A decade ago, there were a handful of dealers. Now, there is business for everyone.”

Perhaps this could be a reason why supplement shops have come up in every nook and corner of the Capital. Just try not to enter them.