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HPRC Fitness Arena: Dietary Supplements
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.
Before you reach for dietary supplements marketed as “testosterone boosters,” consider this: They probably won’t produce the results you’re looking for, and while some of the ingredients in these products might not be cause for concern, others might put your health and career at risk. To learn more about the safety and effectiveness these types of supplements, visit the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ about testosterone boosters. However, if you’re concerned about your testosterone levels or if you’re experiencing related symptoms such as low sex drive, insomnia, or depression, talk to your healthcare provider.
In recent years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken action against dietary supplement companies for selling products with ingredients that put them in a category of being “adulterated” or “misbranded.” Examples of these ingredients include Acacia rigidula, BMPEA, DMAA, DMBA, ephedra, methylsynephrine, and picamilon. Such ingredients have been determined to be unsafe, lack evidence of safety, don’t meet the definition of a dietary ingredient, or combinations of these issues. Some are even used as drugs in other countries.
Although these ingredients are not allowed in dietary supplements, you might still find them in some products, so always read product labels carefully. Service members especially take note! Since FDA has declared the ingredients listed above (and others) to be “illegal” or “not allowed” in dietary supplements for one reason or another, commands have restricted their use by military members. For more information about FDA’s role in regulating dietary supplement products and ingredients, visit FDA’s web page.
DHEA, short for dehydroepiandrosterone (also known as Prasterone), and chemical variations of this dietary supplement ingredient are commonly found in products marketed for sexual enhancement and bodybuilding such as testosterone boosters and prohormones. They’re also marketed to produce effects similar to anabolic steroids. Unlike anabolic steroids, DHEA is not illegal, but it is prohibited by professional sports organizations such as the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Members of the Coast Guard should especially look out for supplements containing this ingredient, as they are not permitted to take any substances NCAA classifies as anabolic agents. To learn more, visit the OPSS FAQ about DHEA.