Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.
HPRC Fitness Arena: Dietary Supplements
Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has a new infographic about caffeine and performance. Caffeine, which is a stimulant, is found in various beverages, dietary supplements, and even your ration items. While it can help boost your mental and physical performance, it’s important to use it strategically. Otherwise, you could experience some unwanted side effects. So if you choose to use caffeine, check out our new infographic with information about how and when to use it and where you’ll find it. And for more information about caffeine, please visit the OPSS FAQs about caffeine and hidden sources of caffeine.
“Explosive workouts.” “Extreme pumps.” “Enhanced endurance.” These are just some of the marketing claims used to promote nitric oxide (NO) supplements. Interestingly though, NO supplements don’t actually contain any nitric oxide, which is a gas. Instead, these types of supplements usually contain amino acids plus various other ingredients. So will these supplements fulfill their promises of improving your performance or are they just “full of hot air”? Read the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ on nitric oxide supplements to find out.
Since July 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released over 25 Public Notifications about individual supplement products marketed for sexual enhancement and weight loss that contain hidden active ingredients. Through laboratory testing, these products were found to contain drugs and controlled substances—ingredients that pose health and readiness risks. For a list of these Public Notifications, visit FDA’s Tainted Sexual Enhancement Products and Tainted Weight Loss Products.
The most common types of products found to contain “undeclared” ingredients (that is, substances not listed on the label) are those marketed for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding. Dietary supplements don’t require FDA approval before being put on the market, and there is no way to know the contents of a product without laboratory testing. So if you’re considering a dietary supplement, check the label to see if the product has been evaluated by an independent third-party organization.
Two-a-day practices have started for teens in fall sports. One big issue is concussion education: learning the signs of a concussion and then what to do if you actually have one—or if someone you know does. Several dietary supplement manufacturers have promoted products to help with recovery from concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), but there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support these claims. If you suffer from a concussion or TBI, make sure you follow your doctor’s orders for recovery. And if you have children involved in sports, watch them for possible signs.
FDA warns consumers to avoid using products that claim to prevent or treat a concussion or TBI. For more information, read FDA’s Consumer Update on dietary supplements and concussions.
Caffeinated gum is a quick and efficient way for Warfighters to consume caffeine in order to improve physical performance and maintain cognitive capabilities temporarily during situations that demand vigilance. Because the caffeine is absorbed through tissues in the mouth, it enters the bloodstream faster than foods, beverages, and supplements do. In addition to the rapid absorption of caffeine, caffeinated gum offers other benefits such as being lightweight, compact, and providing caffeine in an appropriate amount when needed. However, caffeinated gum might not always be the best choice depending on your situation, needs, and preferences.
The Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP) hosted a workshop last week (July 21, 2016) on appearance- and performance-enhancing substances. Subject-matter experts from Harvard University, the University of Missouri, and the Department of Defense spoke about androgenic anabolic steroids (AAS) and how the use of AAS has emerged as a major public-health problem, particularly among young male weightlifters. The exact number of military members using AAS is not known, but there is known use, and it might be higher than expected. The panel discussed the impact of AAS on military readiness—potential risks and potential benefits—and the need for more research in this area.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse has some good resources on AAS, particularly their short- and long-term effects. And for information about other performance-enhancing substances, please visit Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS).
Aconitum kusnezoffii—one of several plants known as aconite—is being marketed in some dietary supplement products as a source of the stimulant 2-aminoisoheptane. All aconites naturally contain a toxin called “aconitine” and are considered poisonous. Although some types of aconite are used in traditional Chinese medicines, the plant must be properly processed, or it can be dangerous and lethal. Even when properly processed, it can still be dangerous.
There is no scientific evidence that 2-aminoisoheptane, also called octodrine or DMHA, occurs in aconite or anywhere else in nature. Octodrine is a nasal decongestant, first made in a laboratory in 1944. Without laboratory testing, there’s no way to know if a dietary supplement product labeled with this ingredient contains 2-aminoisoheptane or aconite (or both) or any of the other toxic chemicals found in aconite. Bottom line: If a product lists “2-aminoisoheptane (Aconitum kusnezoffii)” as an ingredient, it could be problematic.
Since May 2016, 43 dietary supplement products have been added to the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) High-Risk Supplement List, bringing the total number of products on the list to 247. Together with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), OPSS frequently updates the list to help you stay informed about current high-risk products. You can access the High-Risk Supplement List from the OPSS web page or download the app (from the Apps tab) to your phone or tablet and take it wherever you go. If you’re considering dietary supplements, be sure to check back often for more updates.
Picamilon goes by many names, such as pikatropin and nicotinyl-gamma-aminobutric acid, but one thing it can’t be called is a dietary ingredient. In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration declared that picamilon is not a legal ingredient in dietary supplements and sent warning letters to 5 companies whose dietary supplement products contained picamilon. So why is it illegal? Find out in the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ about picamilon.
If you want to learn more about other questionable ingredients, explore the OPSS FAQs about dietary supplement ingredients.
Hemp is turning up in a variety of foods, beverages, and dietary supplements, and most service members need to keep an eye out for this ingredient on product labels. While hemp provides important nutrients such as protein, it also contains tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active ingredient in marijuana. The levels of THC in hemp used for food and supplements are much lower than those in marijuana, so products containing hemp shouldn’t get you “high.” But don’t run to the store just yet! Although DoD does not have a specific policy regarding hemp, each service does. Check the OPSS FAQ about hemp for your service’s policy on hemp.