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HPRC Fitness Arena: Dietary Supplements
Dietary supplements don’t require approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before being put on the market. That means unless a product has been tested in a laboratory, there’s no way to know its true contents, including potentially problematic ingredients and possibly even ones not listed on the label. So how can you tell if a product really contains what it says on the Supplement Facts panel? Check the product label to see if it carries a seal from an independent, third-party organization. For more information and examples of third-party organizations, visit the OPSS FAQ about third-party certification.
Drug testing can happen at any time in the military. If you’re taking or considering dietary supplements—especially ones considered “high risk”—you’ll want to make sure your product won’t affect your test results. High-risk supplements are among those marketed for bodybuilding, performance enhancement, sexual enhancement, and weight loss. They sometimes contain ingredients (listed on the label or not) that could cause a positive test result. If you have a product that you think might cause a problem with a drug test, contact one of the DoD Drug Testing Centers on the OPSS infosheet “Dietary supplements and drug testing.”
An adverse event from a dietary supplement is any undesirable health effect you might experience. It could be mild or life threatening. It’s important to know how to recognize symptoms that might impact readiness. To learn how, read the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ on adverse events, which also has a link to a form for reporting adverse events to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. All forms are then sent to FDA. Documenting adverse events is an essential part of how the FDA evaluates potentially dangerous dietary supplements.
Manufacturers and distributors also are required to notify FDA of adverse events by calling the 800 telephone number located on product labels.
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.