GRAND FORKS AIR FORCE BASE, N.D.—Thirty-seven percent of Air Force personnel are currently using dietary supplements as part of a daily routine or workout plan, according to the Air Force Medical Operations Agency. Supplements often fall into a gray area, as they are neither vitamins nor drugs, and Airmen can easily be tricked into buying what they think will help them with weight gain or loss.
The problem is without proper research, products promising to increase workout endurance, decrease fat percentage or maintain muscle mass can be used improperly. With lack of research and improper use, consumers may face negative results, such as high blood pressure, dehydration and increased heart rate.
According to the Food and Drug Administration website, fda.gov, manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements and ingredients are solely responsible for evaluating the safety and labeling of their products before marketing to ensure they meet all the requirements of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, meaning there is no regulation of the supplement industry.
Denae Grove, 319th Medical Operational Squadron health promotion coordinator, said research is the most important thing any consumer can do before investing in supplements.
Grove recommended Airmen ask themselves if a supplement can do what it says it will.
“If my goal is to get a certain vitamin or mineral, but none of the ingredients will truly help me, I’m just throwing my money away,” Grove said.
More importantly than wasting money, consumers who neglect to research products before using them may unintentionally cause harm to themselves.
Senior Airman Paul Dell, 319th Logistics Readiness Squadron vehicle operator, and supplement-consumer of five years said he witnessed first-hand the danger of misusing and abusing supplements.
“There was one individual in our shop at one time that was taking something like Hydroxycut and wasn’t eating,” Dell said. “He was just taking the pills and starving himself. He was on the verge of needing to go to the hospital.”
Dell said he noticed, especially in Airmen, the waist measurement requirement in mandatory fitness assessments pressure men and women to try and lose weight in an unhealthy manner.
“A lot of people think of supplements as magic powder,” Dell said.
Both Dell and Grove encourage individuals looking to get in shape or lose weight to do so with a goal in mind.
“Map out a plan to reach your goal,” Grove said. “Sometimes that includes supplements.”
Dell and Grove encourage those who are interested in making a plan, to use websites like www.hprc-online.org/dietary-supplements/opss in order to thoroughly research effects and benefits of different dietary supplement products.
Dell and Grove acknowledge supplements can help on a fitness journey but agree that they are not always necessary.
There are healthy proteins available in turkey, eggs, sweet potatoes, brown rice and similar foods. Taking supplements doesn’t automatically get someone in shape, Dell said. Anyone can take the best supplements, but if they eat fast food all the time they’ll go nowhere.
“Bottom line is to be an informed consumer,” Grove explained. “Know what you’re paying for, and do the research before you spend your hard-earned money.”