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HPRC Fitness Arena: Dietary Supplements
The Food and Drug Administration recently announced that methylsynephrine (also known as oxilofrine) “does not meet the statutory definition of a dietary supplement ingredient.” So what does this mean? Products containing methylsynephrine are adulterated and can’t be marketed legally as dietary supplements. Methylsynephrine is also prohibited in sport because it’s a pharmaceutical drug (not currently approved in the U.S) and a stimulant that increases blood pressure and affects heart rate. What’s more, some supplements have been found to contain methylsynephrine in amounts equal to or greater than pharmaceutical doses.
The consequences of taking methylsynephrine in large amounts or in combination with other stimulants aren’t entirely known, but one product containing this ingredient and other stimulants has been linked to nausea, vomiting, agitation, increased heart rate, chest pain, and cardiac arrest. If you’re considering taking a dietary supplement with methylsynephrine or oxilofrine on the label, you might want to think twice. For more from FDA, please see “Methylsynephrine in Dietary Supplements.”
Most dietary supplement products are marketed for adults 18 and older and typically carry a warning on the label against use by those under 18. That’s because there has been little to no reliable research done on the use of dietary supplements—especially those marketed for bodybuilding and performance enhancement—by people under the age of 18. As such, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) strongly opposes the use of dietary supplements by high school athletes to gain a competitive advantage.
Whether you’re a teen athlete, parent, coach, or healthcare provider, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Teens: Achieving your athletic goals means hard work. Taking shortcuts with dietary supplements can be harmful to your health and have a negative effect on your future athletic ambitions. Watch HPRC’s video below to learn about one college athlete’s experience.
Parents and coaches: Talk often with your athletes about dietary supplements, and encourage them to eat whole foods to fuel their bodies. Download HPRC’s “Fueling the adolescent athlete,” which has helpful suggestions for hydrating and for eating between workouts.
Healthcare providers: Use the OPSS Guidelines to ask about supplement use as part of taking a comprehensive dietary supplement history. Counsel athletes and their parents about the risks involved with using dietary supplements and other performance-enhancing substances. Promote proper nutrition, training, and rest to improve performance.
Remember, teens (and adults) can get all the nutrients their bodies need by eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Teens and adults don’t need supplements unless a doctor determines it’s needed to treat deficiency of a particular nutrient.
SARMs (selective androgen receptor modulators) are unapproved, experimental drugs sometimes illegally marketed and sold as dietary supplement products. They’re also available on the Internet in other forms, but their use in sport is prohibited. Use of SARMs can affect military performance and readiness.
Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has an FAQ about SARMS, including a link to a list of more than 200 dietary supplements and other commercial products containing SARMs. The list also includes an extensive list of SARM names to help you identify them on product labels.
HPRC’s Ask the Expert feature is available if you have particular questions about these ingredients or any other questions about dietary supplements.
In the sea of dietary supplements, can you tell which ones are safe to take and which to avoid? Do you often find yourself confused, wondering what you should be looking for in a product? Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has you covered. Here are just some of the tools that OPSS provides to help you choose supplements wisely:
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). HPRC receives hundreds of questions every year, and we’ve put answers to the most frequently asked questions in this section of OPSS. You’ll find information about banned substances in the military, hot-topic dietary supplement ingredients, and more.
- OPSS Scorecard. The scorecard consists of just 7 questions to show you what to look for on a product label and help you determine if a product is okay or a “no-go.”
- OPSS High-Risk Supplement List. With HRSL, you can see if a certain dietary supplement product might pose a health or sport anti-doping risk.
- Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. NMCD, a partner of HPRC, provides information about the safety and effectiveness of thousands of dietary supplement products and ingredients. And best of all, it’s free to all DoD personnel with a “.mil” email address.
The goal of OPSS is to provide you with the most reliable and relevant information about dietary supplements, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for, send us a question using our Ask the Expert feature.
If you buy dietary supplements at international stores, gas stations, or online, watch out. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns consumers about imported dietary supplements and nonprescription drug products, specifically those marketed as “natural.” Just because a product is labeled as “natural” does not necessarily make it safe or effective. In fact, many “natural” products have been found to contain undisclosed chemicals or drugs that can be harmful, and it’s possible that some products contain hidden ingredients that could make you pop hot on a drug test. To learn more, please read FDA’s “Some Imported Dietary Supplements…” Only have a minute? Watch their 60-second video below.
The only way to know if a product actually contains the ingredients listed on the label (and nothing else) is by testing it in a laboratory. Before you buy a dietary supplement, check the label to see if it’s been tested by a third-party organization.
Many dietary supplement products are marketed as nootropics—substances intended to improve memory, focus, and overall mental performance. While some products contain vitamins, minerals, and plant-based ingredients, others contain drugs that are not legal dietary supplement ingredients. Read the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ about nootropics to learn more about these products and whether they are safe and effective.
Not all ingredients found in dietary supplements are legal, so read product labels carefully. For more information, visit FDA’s Dietary Supplement Products & Ingredients.
March 6–12 marks National Consumer Protection Week, a campaign that encourages consumers to make informed decisions about the products and services they purchase and avoid getting caught in a scam. Dietary supplements are often marketed with claims that sound too good to be true, so be a savvy consumer and question claims such as “quick fix,” “miracle cure,” and “scientific breakthrough.” If you find a product you believe is falsely advertised/labeled or caused an adverse reaction, report it.
Visit the National Consumer Protection Week website to learn more about how to protect yourself from fraud, not just this week, but every day of the year. Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) strives to provide the best resources and tools to help you choose supplements wisely. You’ll find even more information and consumer updates about dietary supplements from federal agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission, and watch this video from Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.
March is National Nutrition Month, a good reminder to eat healthfully and choose the best foods to fuel our bodies. This year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” which isn’t something we can often say about dietary supplements that come in the forms of pills and powders. If you’re looking for a supplement to lose weight, build muscle, or enhance your performance, HPRC always recommends choosing nutrient-rich foods first. They taste better and are better for you. Use the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) “Real Food” poster to see what foods can help you meet your goals.
If you’re still considering dietary supplements, be sure to visit OPSS where you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions, infosheets, videos, and other educational materials to help you make an informed decision. And remember to always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.
Dietary supplements containing stimulants can negatively affect your heart and increase your risk of an adverse event. Stimulants such as caffeine, yohimbine, and synephrine can cause increased or irregular heart rate and high blood pressure and have been associated with chest pain, stroke, and heart attack. In addition, ingesting stimulants before or during exercise can further increase your risk for such heart problems and lead to potentially worse outcomes.
If you are considering a dietary supplement, it’s important to read the product label carefully, especially if you have a heart condition. There are many different stimulants used as ingredients in dietary supplements, and often products come with a warning. Moreover, stimulants are sometimes contained in a proprietary blend, so you can’t tell from the label exactly how much of each ingredient you would be taking.
Although DMAA is now illegal as a dietary supplement ingredient, some companies still offer products containing this substance. HPRC’s newest update of “Dietary Supplement Products Containing DMAA” lists those products still being offered on the Internet, as well as products that have disappeared from the market. Before you buy any dietary supplement, check this list and read the label to make sure it doesn’t contain this potentially dangerous ingredient. Based on federal policy, DoD considers such products illegal to use or possess. Don’t risk your health or your military career!