Are Dietary/Nutritional Supplement products disguised therapeutics in South Africa? - Uncovering the steroid profile delivery system

[Speaker] Gary Gabriels:1,4
[Co-author] Mike Lambert:2, Pete Smith:3, Lubbe Wiesner:3, Yoga Coopoo:4
1:Pharmacy and Pharamacology, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, 2:Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine, Department of Human Biology, University of Cape Town, Faculty of Health Sciences, South Africa, 3:Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, Faculty of Health Sciences, South Africa, 4:Department of Sport and Movement Studies, University of Johannesburg, Faculty of Health Science, Gauteng, South Africa

Nutritional supplements are used by competitive and recreational athletes of all ages. The situation is further exacerbated by the general pressure placed on certain groups to use supplements. For example, young sports participants who are engaged in developmental and competitive phases of sport, encounter peer pressure to use supplements. As a consequence the supplement industry has grown to meet the increasing demand. These supplements may contain adulterated substances that may potentially have harmful short - and long-term health consequences. The regulation of the supplement industry is unrefined, which increases the risk of the nutritional supplements being contaminated. Contamination may be intentional, where the companies 'spike' their products with an ergogenic aid, or unintentional. A consequence of contamination is that an athlete may fail a drug test after ingesting a contaminated supplement or there may be negative health consequences. This impasse has brought uncertainty to the minds of well intentioned athletes, and has also compromised the development of the legitimate nutritional supplement industry.
The research study investigated the industry, associated with commercially available nutritional and traditional supplements. In particular the research assessed the content of these products for prohibited substances, with reference specifically to steroids, that may not necessarily be declared by the manufacturer on the product label.
A total of 138 nutritional supplements products formed part of the assessment, were obtained from direct purchases from shops, pharmacies and outlets, directly from consumers, and from suppliers, manufacturers and distributors. The products were laboratory analysed for 16 pre-determined steroids, using Tandem Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry.
The frequency of 'positive' tested samples for the respective steroids assessed in the overall cohort ranged from 16-86%, for South African produced nutritional supplements 15-89%, and for imported products, bought in South Africa, 12-90%.
The findings of the steroid 'positive' tested samples provide sufficient evidence for implementing a system for regulating, monitoring and enforcing the quality control of nutritional supplements.

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