Everyone wants a miracle pill, the nutrition program manager with 72nd Medical Group Health Promotion said, but it doesn’t exist.
“I’d love to be able to eat whatever I wanted, take a pill and never gain a pound,” said Wendi Knowles, who is on a mission to warn people about vitamin supplements.
The most common reasons people take a supplement are for weight loss, muscle building, diabetes and male enhancement, Knowles said.
There are no Food and Drug Administration regulations on the ingredients in supplements, which can come in many forms, such as tea and other drinks (including energy drinks), health bars, powders, liquids and pills. Because of that, there are numerous risks in using them.
“If you’re taking any kind of real medicine prescribed by your doctor, you need to be very careful with supplements,” said Knowles.
Though the FDA doesn’t regulate supplements, it does have a list of “high risk” supplements that come with warnings of hidden ingredients. Sometimes a supplement will list ingredients and include a “proprietary blend” that can include a number of other ingredients and other drugs, Knowles said. One example is male enhancement supplements that contain ingredients found in male enhancement prescription drugs.
The Department of Defense has bases putting together committees to help educate the military and civilian workforce on the dangers of supplement use. The job of the committee will be to market the Operation Supplement Safety website to provide all Airmen with a place to get science-based information on any supplement they are interested in taking.
DOD employees have free access to the OPSS Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database when they log in with a .mil email address. NMCD rates the effectiveness, safety and product quality of dietary supplement products and ingredients based on unbiased scientific information. The database can be found at hprc-online.org/dietary-supplements/OPSS. Click on “dietary supplements” and you can find out about drug interactions, test results for effectiveness and natural alternatives.
The Human Performance Resource Center website is for the warfighter, as well as health-care providers, to get information so they can make an informed decision.
There are some general questions to ask before taking a supplement.
• Is it third-party-certified?
• Is it five ingredients or less (except gelatin, color additives and dyes)?
• Does it have ingredients listed as “blends, proprietary blends or delivery systems” on the label?
• Can you pronounce all of the names of the ingredients?
• What is the total amount of caffeine indicated? (The maximum is no more than 200 milligrams serving per day.)
• Does it promise a quick fix?
• Do all ingredients have a daily value established, and are the DV nutrients no more than 200 percent (except fish oil and glucosamine)?
“The most up-to-date science can be found on the OPSS website,” said Knowles. She advises visiting the site and looking at the products, their interactions and adverse reactions before taking them.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” she said.