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HPRC Fitness Arena: Nutrition
Wandering down the aisle of a store looking for a dietary supplement can be overwhelming and intimidating. There are so many to choose from, and we often have to make our choices based on advertising claims and rely on the manufacturers for ingredient information. Does the supplement actually have the ingredients claimed on the label? Will it have the reported effect on our health?
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database is the “scientific gold standard” for evidence-based information on dietary supplements and natural medicines, including drug interactions, effectiveness, safety and use, and more. HPRC has partnered with Natural Medicines Database to allow healthcare providers, Warfighters, and military families to search this comprehensive database in order to make informed decisions about dietary supplement use. The Natural Medicines Database also has “Natural MedWATCH,” which allows users to report an adverse event associated with the use of dietary supplements or natural medicines so that they can then forward the report on to the appropriate regulatory agency.
By going to the HPRC homepage, users can access any of the three database choices provided: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database for Health Professionals, Consumers, or Natural MedWATCH. After choosing one of the sites, first-time users should sign up for an account, which is done with an active DoD email address. Once inside this vast database, a user can search for an individual natural medicine ingredient of interest or a brand name product.
The professional version of the database includes:
- Evidence-based monographs available for individual natural ingredients.
- Scientific names of ingredients
- Information on safety, effectiveness, mechanism of action, adverse reactions, interactions, and dosage/administration (which are not necessarily recommended or safe doses) of ingredients
- Patient handouts
- Brand-name product searches by ingredient
- “Natural Product Effectiveness Checker” for medical conditions
- “Natural Product Drug Interaction Checker” for a list of drugs/natural products interactions
- Comprehensive information on brand-name products, including ingredient lists and summary reports on effectiveness, interactions, and adverse effects.
- Up-to-date information for over 60,000 brand name products
The consumer version, for military families and Warfighters, contains the same research-based information on herbal remedies, dietary supplements and other natural products, but in an easier-to-understand version. An important point consumers should be aware of is that it may be necessary to research each individual ingredient in a product before making a decision to use it for health benefits.
So, if you want to find credible, evidence-based information on dietary supplements and/or natural products, search the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Evaluating natural health products can be daunting and there is no other comprehensive, reliable site like it to guide you in making your decision.
There is a growing trend in the U.S. of consumers using a variety of dietary supplements in hopes of getting healthier, warding off disease and easing symptoms of various conditions.
In a September 14, 2010 article, The Wall Street Journal reports that the federal government is stepping up research into the safety and effectiveness of a wide range of products to help consumers make more informed choices about supplements. The article in full-text can be accessed here.
The Simple 7™ is an easy way to figure out how to achieve good health. This online resource, provided by the American Heart Association, lists seven steps that are crucial to our health. We list their steps for you below:
- Don’t smoke.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Engage in physical activity.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Manage your blood pressure.
- Take charge of your cholesterol.
- Keep your blood glucose at healthy levels.
With Life’s Simple 7™, you'll find out where you stand, how you're doing, and also get you your own personal heart score and health plan.
Instead of asking your friends to bring their usual comfort foods to dinner at your house, suggest that everyone bring a healthy option instead. Place caloric restrictions or assign different people to fruit, vegetable, or meat dishes. This will help get everyone involved in healthier eating habits.
Despite widespread access to internet-based healthcare information, there’s almost a complete lack of evidence showing any effects all this information may have on health outcomes. According to a study published in Health Expectations, this indicates that there’s a disparity between the health information we find online and our ability to use it properly.
So, with as much information as there is on the internet, how can we, as consumers, find reputable sources for our health questions? The internet can be a great resource when you want to learn about a specific disease or health condition. You can also find tips on staying healthy. But among the millions of websites that offer health-related information, many present myths and half-truths as if they are facts.
To avoid unreliable health information when you’re surfing the internet, use these tips to find reliable information:
- Keep in mind that anyone can publish anything they want on the internet, regardless of the facts. Ultimately, it’s up to the consumer to determine which information source is credible.
- In order to determine a trusted, verified source for credible and objective information, stick with well-respected health websites. A good starting point is healthfinder.gov, which provides a “Health A to Z” topic listing (http://www.healthfinder.gov/HealthAtoZ/ ) of over 1,600 health topics from the most trusted sources.
- Newspapers always use more than one source for verifying factual information. The same should hold true for health information. When searching a topic, it’s important to find at least a second reference to confirm your findings. Find a third reference, too, if possible. When several sources report similar information on a topic, it’s more likely to be accurate and up-to-date. In general, if you can't find the information duplicated in more than two or three references, then the information is questionable at best.
- Become skilled at separating facts from opinions. This can sometimes be difficult, as the evidence that exists may be minimal. It's important that you know the difference between fact and opinion, especially when you're researching treatment alternatives.
- Testimonials and personal stories tend to focus on a patient’s subjective point of view. If you find a website that quotes patients about the effectiveness of a treatment or therapy, this information is biased and cannot be trusted as a reliable source. However, there is information to be learned from the experiences of patients by using other sources (for example, through blogs and wikis, and support group message board forums). In those situations, refer back to point 1 (above) as your first line of review.
- Make sure the information you find is the most current available. Often, you will find that research and studies conflict with one another, or that newer information trumps older information.
Finally, information that you find on a website does not replace your doctor's advice. Your doctor is the best person to answer questions about your personal health. If you read something on the internet that doesn't concur with what your doctor has told you, make a point to speak with him or her about it.
Recent surveys of dietary supplement use indicate that about 20 percent of active duty personnel are using some type of protein powder. The percentage of users is likely higher among special operations personnel, and this is of concern, given the July 2010 Consumer Reports® alert on protein drinks. These powder products are typically mixed with milk, water, or another liquid to make a shake and promoted as a sure way to increase muscle mass. The products often come in different flavors, with strawberry and chocolate the mainstays.
The Consumer Reports® Alert indicated that most of the 15 protein drink products analyzed contained miniscule to concerning amounts of selected contaminants – arsenic, cadmium, lead, and/or mercury – each of which is toxic to various organs in the body. Military personnel commonly use several of the products noted in the report. These include EAS Myoplex Original Rich Dark Chocolate Shakes; Muscle Milk chocolate, vanilla crème, and nutritional shake beverages; MuscleTech Nitro-Tech Hardcore Pro-Series Vanilla Milkshake; selected GNC products, and BSN and Optimum Nutrition whey protein products.
It is important to note that if three servings of these products were taken per day, consumers could be ingesting amounts of these contaminants in excess of the maximum limits proposed by the United States Pharmacopeia, the authoritative standard for health products. Importantly, toxic effects have been reported from using these products and are of concern because the Food and Drug Administration does not require such products to be tested to confirm the absence of contaminants and other potentially dangerous products before they are sold.
Take Home Message: A chicken breast, three 8-oz glasses of milk, and three eggs are inexpensive sources of high quality protein, whereas protein powders are expensive sources of uncertain quality, and potentially contaminated, protein. It is both better and cheaper to eat real foods.
Remember, taking dietary supplements alone will not reduce your disease risk. You must engage in complementary behaviors such as healthy eating and regular physical activity. Visit the "Dietary Guidelines for Americans" publication for more information.
MuscleMaster.com, Inc. (www.MuscleMaster.com) announced that it is conducting a voluntary nationwide recall of all lots and expiration dates of the seventeen listed dietary supplements sold between June 1, 2009 and November 17, 2009 (hereinafter "Recalled Products"). Click here to read more.
By G. A. Volb | Army News Service
May 24, 2010
As Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. stresses the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program, the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy finds itself at the tip of the spear in offering health and fitness insight to its enlisted members.
Senior Army leadership not only wants a broadly-skilled NCO treading the battlefields of tomorrow, but one that is both physically and spiritually fit. The former is a product of fitness regimens designed to enhance Soldier's ability to withstand the stresses and challenges of today's real - world operations tempo – and diet, not surprisingly, is a major piece to the puzzle.
Dietician Mrs. Jennifer Eiland, left, discusses possible changes Master Sgt. Anthony Jones may want to consider regarding his diet to help better his overall fitness. Jones, a Philadelphia, Pa., native lost nine pounds in just over a month following his initial meetings with Eiland. "I just used a few common sense diet and lifestyle changes that Jennifer suggested," the 44-year-old Jones said. (Photo Credit: G.A. Volb)"The food choices you make and when you eat have a direct impact on your energy level, ability to concentrate, overall feeling of well-being and gut function," said Jennifer Eiland, a dietician and part of the Army Physical Fitness Research Institute's staff at their USASMA annex. "It also affects your ability to complete an exercise session."
Casey, it should be noted, is so big on Soldier fitness that he's made the CSF Program, established in 2009, a priority as the Army tries to focus on the five dimensions of strength: Physical, Emotional, Social, Spiritual and Family.
The general's intent is to increase the strength, resilience and enhance performance of all Soldiers, family members, and Department of the Army civilians. None of it is possible if the old quip, "You are what you eat" makes sense and everyone is shoveling junk food down their necks.
"Diet is extremely important to realizing health and fitness goals," said the 25-year dietitian from Roy, Utah. "It influences almost three-quarters of the results of our health assessments. It can also influence a person's aerobic capacity; heavier participants typically have lower V02 or lung efficiency as a result. Mood and alertness are also affected by diet."
She stressed that eating a diet full of sugar, salt and fat lowers one's energy level and ability to concentrate, which in turn, can negatively affect school work and a Soldier's performance.
"It affects chronic disease risk on a number of levels as well," she offered. "Obesity increases the odds of contracting cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Excessive sodium intake can increase blood pressure in over two-thirds of the population and risk of stroke and heart attacks according to the latest from the American Heart Association and Centers for Disease Control."
In a recent letter to the troops, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston emphasized the need for Soldiers to work on all five areas stressed by the CSF Program; most of which can be affected by diet.
"We want CSF activities to become a part of our daily lives, just as we do physical training every day to build and strengthen the physical dimensions of CSF," said Preston in his letter. "We want the members of our team to do more than just cope with adversity; we want them to grow from their life experiences."
"Reflecting on the past eight years of war and our deployment experience in Afghanistan and Iraq, we can now begin to understand the individual health and resilience problems associated with our deployment tempo," he said.
An unhealthy Soldier is less effective," said Eiland. "A sergeant major's overall health, including how he or she eats, influences their ability as leaders ... and the influence they have on the health choices of their young Soldiers."
Eiland pointed out that a prominent group of retired military leaders want junk food taken out of America's schools because the obesity epidemic, especially in young people, is limiting the number of people who can be recruited into the military, making obesity a national security issue.
On a positive note, she added that many Soldiers have a sincere interest in improving their eating habits.
"A good majority tend to eat more meat and fewer fruits and vegetables than is considered optimal for good health," said Eiland. "Including more whole grains and less processed foods is also an area I frequently discuss with Soldiers. Sugary beverages seem to be a favorite as is eating fast food and microwave meals given their busy schedules. However, if dietary changes are presented in a practical and doable way to them, most will make changes."
The major challenges, according to the dietitian, are getting organized and planning ahead.
"Enlisting uncooperative family members, finding time to cook their own meals and changing an old mindset are also challenges," she said.