ACCORDING to a CQUniversity risk management expert, some sports supplement chains have been promoting social media fitness challenges via 'influencers' who have no expertise or qualifications to provide advice.
Dr Betul Sekendiz said thousands of people participate in marketing-driven challenges using unsubstantiated training, diet and supplements programs given to them.
"The one-size-fits-all instructions on the pill bottle labels can't make up for the lack of individually tailored advice from a qualified dietician ... there could be underlying medical issues,” Dr Sekendiz said.
Dr Betul Sekendiz is a lecturer in exercise and sport management, who has competed at high-level international and national bodybuilding and figure competitions.
"People who are striving for unattainable muscle mass or rapid weight loss or 1 per cent body fat will reach a plateau through natural means and reach out for a bottle of pills or powder, without seeking qualified training and nutrition advice,” she said.
"None of those images of bodybuilders you see in magazines - leaving aside photoshopping - can be achieved through natural, healthy means.”
Dr Sekendiz said sport supplements were now one of the fastest-growing industries in the world.
In Australia, sport supplements, including protein powders, are controlled by the Therapeutic Goods Administration but unlike medical drugs, they are listed as low risk and the manufacturers are not required to show proof of their acclaimed benefits other than demonstrating they are of acceptable quality and do not present significant safety risks.
"However, in 2011-16 six organ transplants were linked to use of herbal supplements that can also be found in sport supplements.
"Recently, a 25-year-old female bodybuilder with a genetic disorder died as a result of inappropriate use of protein supplements.”
Dr Sekendiz said the social media fitness challenges not only create legal liability risks, they also put the health and safety of participants at risk.
In 2013, the Australian Crime Commission released its report into Organised Crime and Drugs in Sport.
The report suggested inappropriate practices in relation to supplementation posed a threat to the integrity of sport and the safety of individuals.
"While strict policies and frameworks have been developed by the Australian Institute of Sport against inappropriate use of supplements by elite athletes, the recreational fitness industry has not been paid enough attention,” Dr Sekendiz said.
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