Dietary supplementation patterns of Korean Olympic Athletes participating in the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games

Journal Title (Medline/Pubmed accepted abbreviation): Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab
Year: 2011
Volume: 21
Number: 2
Page numbers: 166-174
doi (if applicable): N/A

Summary of Background and Research Design

Background: Many elite athletes report frequent use of dietary supplements. Previous reports indicate that between 45% and 74% of Olympic athletes take supplements during both training periods and Olympic games. The authors noted a study indicating that the prevalence of use of Oriental dietary supplements is 1% to 19% in Singaporean athletes, with a larger emphasis on herbals as compared with Western countries. However, because some traditional Oriental supplements contain agents that are banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency, Asian athletes need to pay particular attention to the ingredients of dietary supplements.

Hypothesis/purpose of study: The objectives of this study were to obtain information about the use of dietary supplements by Korean Olympians during the training period and immediately before the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games. In addition, the authors sought to determine the reason(s) for intake of dietary supplements and information on athletes’ doping education, knowledge, and educators.

Subjects: Study participants were on the 2008 Korean national team and participated in the training period for the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games (athletes 14 to 37 years of age). Participants were categorized into 2 groups: Group A included only athletes who participated in the Olympic Games, and Group B included both the competing Group A athletes and noncompeting “substitute” athletes.

Experimental design: Observational

Treatments and protocol: All athletes completed 2 questionnaires during scheduled surveying periods before and after the Olympic Games. The questionnaire was developed and reviewed by health and sports professionals and was evaluated for face validity by 6 dietitian members of the International Sport Science Institute of Korean Sport Nutrition Advisory Committee. The reliability of the questionnaire was assessed in a test–retest format with 30 varsity athletes. The first questionnaire was collected the week before the opening of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games to assess supplements consumed during the preceding 6-month training period. The second questionnaire was collected within 1 week after the closing of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games to assess dietary supplements consumed during the Games and immediately before (within 2 to 3 hr) specific Olympic events. The study defined Oriental dietary supplements, as per the World Health Organization, as theory-based medicine that originated in ancient China and has been modified and is now practiced in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.

Summary of research findings
  • A total of 161 athletes (85 male and 76 female) in Group A and 228 athletes (128 male and 100 female) in Group B from 14 sport disciplines completed questionnaires.
    • The first questionnaire had a response rate of 96% (male 98%, female 94%), and the second questionnaire was collected from all athletes.
  • Most participants (male 79%, female 82%) took ≥ 1 dietary supplement during the 6-month training period prior to the games, with no sex or age differences in prevalence detected.
  • The most prevalent supplements were vitamins (63%), Oriental supplements (58%), amino acids (25%), and creatine (21%).
  • The main reasons reported for consuming supplements were to improve recovery ability (66%), to increase muscle performance (22%), and for health maintenance (7%).
  • Approximately 79% of these athletes report receiving regular education regarding antidoping:
    • Olympic-sponsored education classes (64%)
    • Coaches (15%)

Interpretation of findings/Key practice applications

The results demonstrate that many Korean Summer Olympic athletes, similar to Olympic athletes from Western countries, use dietary supplements during training and competition. Although most of these athletes (79%) are educated in antidoping regulations, additional caution is urged for athletes who use Oriental medicines as ergogenic supplements, especially mixed Oriental medicine, to prevent athletes from inadvertent doping.
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