TODAY   |  November 20, 2012

Teen boys’ desire to be ‘buff’ alarms experts

According to a new report, the quest for the perfect body is putting more boys at risk than ever. Experts say that extreme weight-lifting and calorie-counting is on the rise in boys as young as 14, which could interfere with their development. NBC’s Rehema Ellis reports.

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>>> working out to impress girls is not anything new, but a new report finds the quest for the perfect body is putting more boys at risk than ever before. nbc's rehema ellis has more on that. good morning to you.

>> reporter: thanks, matt. fonzy from "happy days" will always be cool and that body tape is popular, many want the lean body look of their favorite action heros and they are developing dangerous habits to get there. for generations parents have worried about girls taking extreme measures to get thin, but now with more and more popular images of trim, chiseled guys, boys are starting to measure up to the muscular luck. this high school senior lifts weight two hours a day six days a week. he started body building three years ago when he was just 15 years old.

>> guys have the same exact pressure as the girls.

>> reporter: at 5 feet 125 pounds david counts every calorie and consumes protein drinks and bars. and david is not alone. increasingly high school and even middle school boys as young as 14 years old are taking potentially dangerous measures to get the buffed look

>> the health problems are great in interference with regular growth and development, an abnormal building of muscle mass can interfere with normal metabolic function, normal endocrine development.

>> reporter: researchers found that 40% of boys studied in middle school and high school said that they regularly exercised to increase muscle mass . nearly 35% said they used protein supplements . almost 6% said they had experimented with steroids. douglas reported the story for the "new york times." he says that while the study focused mostly on boys, results also pointed to a new trend in young women .

>> strong is the new skinny, yeah. that speaks to how this sort of quest for muscularity have moved over to women as well. not looking to be thin anymore and women want to be thin and toned with six pack abs.

>> reporter: david says the supplements and strict workout regiment have given him more confidence.

>> and what keeps me going, the look, every time i work out i feel like i'm getting stronger and i want to keep going and look the best i can.

>> reporter: experts worry that if teenagers focus too much on protein supplementser they are excluding other important nutrients.

>> as a father of an 11-year-old, i'll keep an eye on that one.