Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Why Do Young Men Take Nutritional Supplements? an Analysis of the Advice Provided in Men's Health Magazine

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Why Do Young Men Take Nutritional Supplements? an Analysis of the Advice Provided in Men's Health Magazine

Article excerpt

The market for supplements has increased substantially within Western nations over the past two to three decades. The following article examines why young men, despite being largely free from ill-health, might take nutritional supplements. It is argued that the advice provided in the popular journal Men's Health magazine does not unduly bias the evidence base for using nutritional supplements or take a particular stance. Instead, the choice to use supplements may be seen as part of a wider culture concerned with the role of scientific evidence in making health choices, body imagery and body dissatisfaction among men, and the merging of health risk preoccupation with the growing desire to "maximise" health and wellbeing.

Keywords: body image, enhancement, media, health, nutritional supplements

The expansion of the nutritional and dietary supplement market has been one of the most conspicuous trends in consumer culture within the Western world (North America and Western Europe). Recent figures suggest that approximately half the U.S. population use nutritional supplements, with a steady growth in the use of supplements in the U.S. over the past three decades (Bailey et al., 2011 and 2013; Gahche et al., 2011). The Nutrition Business Journal reports that for the U.S. market alone, sales of dietary supplements equated to some US$30 billion in 2011 (Nutrition Business Journal, 2012). Prevalence figures vary considerably across Europe but demonstrate a similarly steep rise in consumption across many Western (Western European and North American countries in particular) nations (Reinert et al., 2007; Ritchie, 2007). Such figures appear to be skewed towards the use of supplements being highest among the economically wealthiest sections of the population, older population groups, and those reporting above average health status. Usage tends to be greater among women than men although it appears approximately 40% of men in the U.S. appear to take supplements (Bailey et al., 2011; Gahche et al., 2011). The following paper seeks to explore why one particular sector of the population-predominantly the young males in relatively affluent countries-might take supplements.

BACKGROUND

The underlying premise of the paper is that while nutritional supplementation is evidently required in cases of known nutritional deficiency or malnutrition but it is less clear as to its benefits among a more generalizable population group, not known to be nutrient deficient or suffering from chronic nutritional deficiency or malnutrition. Moreover while young males are not uniformly healthy (see Courtenay, 2000, for discussion of male health issues generally) they are not usually considered to be a population group at high risk of chronic or acute ill-health. In the light of this premise, the suggestion made is that there appears to be more to supplement use than a self-evident need to take supplements for health reasons. It is proposed that Men's Health magazine (hereafter referred to as "MH") provides a suitable vehicle by which to examine why young men might take supplements as it is widely read and appears to be influential well beyond the confines of the readership itself (Labre, 2005). In the following study the author explores the advice provided in the magazine and furthermore discusses this advice against the background of how such magazines reflect and shape how the public comes to understand health and risks to health (see references below).

Motives, Evidence, and the Regulation of Supplements

In response to the evident rise in supplement use, a small but growing body of research has examined supplement users' self-declared motives for taking supplements. Surveys have provided a combination of rationales for use, including treatments for existing ailments and prophylactic uses (Bailey et al., 2011 & 2013; Marinac et al., 2007; Okleshen Peters et al., 2004) along with performance (ergogenic) motives for using supplements among active sports participants and gym users (Bartee et al. …

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