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HPRC shows concern for supplement safety

By Airman 1st Class Benjamin Raughton 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

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Fitness is critical to the health of service members. Deployments to dangerous regions may be a reality and regular fitness tests are a reminder for Airmen to maintain peak physical performance.

Even with a healthy diet and exercise, many service members turn to dietary supplements to give their bodies an added nutrition boost. Enter the Operation Supplement Safety campaign: a program designed to educate service members, retirees, dependents, healthcare providers and Department of Defense civilians about dietary supplements and how to choose them wisely.

The OSS was designed by the Human Performance Resource Center and the DoD and launched Aug. 7.

The HPRC website on OSS contains videos and info-sheets geared to assist service members in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, answers to commonly asked questions regarding supplement use and links to information which will help the readers make sure they are buying a safe product.

"The website for the HPRC, hprc-online.org, is an excellent source of information on supplements," said Amanda Bowman, 2nd Medical Group Health and Wellness Center dietician. "According to the Consortium for Health and Military Performance, dietary supplements have become a major industry in the U.S. in which the American public spent more than $94 billion in 2007. It's imperative to do research on them before use."

Individual research is needed because supplement packaging can promise everything from washboard abdominals to melting pounds off the body within days and that can lead to unhealthy choices.

"According to a recent publication from CHAMP, dietary supplement labeling laws can give consumers a false sense of protection," she said.

The CHAMP report "Guide to Herbs and Supplements: Looking for the Edge" addresses several key points that the consumer must remember:
  • Even if they are sold on military bases, they are not always safe, effective, or legal.
  • Unlike new medications, dietary supplement manufacturers are not required to prove the safety or efficacy of their products before they are marketed. It is up to the Food and Drug Administration to prove the dangers and then pull it off the market.
  • There are several companies that voluntarily test products for quality--Consumer Labs, US Pharmacopeia, etc.--so consumers should look for their logos on supplement products.
  • Combining and stacking products, even with prescribed medications, can lead to deadly consequences, or may lead to positive drug test results. It's better to be safe than sorry.
  • Energy drinks are regulated the same as dietary supplements--many long term effects and combinations are unknown and can be deadly.
  • The report can be found at http://champ.usuhs.mil.
Operation Supplement Safety provides Airmen with the tools to help make healthy decisions regarding dietary supplements, which, according to Bowman, could potentially hinder achieving a healthy lifestyle.

"There's no quick fix or magic pill. Good nutrition is the key to a healthy lifestyle that includes physical and mental fitness," she said.

By using resources like Operation Supplement Safety, maintaining a balanced diet and ample exercise, Airmen will maintain a healthy, battle-ready lifestyle.

"Overall, the campaign aims to make people more aware and help educate those who want to know exactly what they're putting into their bodies," said Bowman.