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Use and safety of doping and sports nutrition supplements in the Netherlands

Gebruik en veiligheid van doping en sportvoedingssupplementen


In the Netherlands not many people use doping and sports nutrition supplements. In 2016 just 0.5 percent of Dutch people aged 15 and over indicated that they had used a sport performance-enhancing substance in the previous year. This is estimated to be equivalent to 65,000 people. This has been revealed by RIVM research among approximately 10,000 people into the use and safety of doping and sports nutrition supplements in grassroots sports (everything apart from elite sports). Using such substances is, however, not without its risks. Various health issues have been reported, such as restlessness, vomiting, dizziness, high blood pressure, as well as more serious symptoms such as cardiac arrhythmia.

Among other things, sports nutrition supplements and doping are used to get a slim or muscular body or to improve sport performance. Examples of sports nutrition supplements are pre-workout products (frequently powders which are taken before engaging in sport and which are intended to boost energy and performance), caffeine supplements, or stackers (weight loss products). Examples of doping are anabolic steroids or amphetamines.

Health issues often arise because substances in the supplements stimulate the nervous system. The substances which cause problems are not always referred to on the label. Consequently consumers do not know that the products they use contain these substances. This was also the outcome of an investigation by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (Nederlandse Voedsel- en Warenautoriteit (NVWA)) in 2017. It is therefore important that consumers are informed about the possible dangers of sports nutrition supplements.

Among other things this investigation used notifications received by the National Poisons Information Centre (Nationaal Vergiftigingen Informatie Centrum) (NVIC)). This centre received 170 reports of health problems in 2016 following the use of sports nutrition supplements (particularly supplements containing caffeine) and doping (particularly anabolic steroids). The composition of a number of these supplements was investigated. RIVM analyses then confirmed that the stimulating supplements contained caffeine and/or amphetamine-type substances.

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