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HPRC Fitness Arena: Dietary Supplements

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Posted 08 March 2017

Weight-loss supplements unwrapped

If your goal is to lose weight in 2017, skip the supplements. Here are two good reasons why.

Is your New Year’s resolution to try to lose weight, meet body composition standards, or just be healthier? Weight-loss supplement might be a tempting solution, but before you take one, consider this: Dietary supplements marketed for weight loss are categorized “high-risk” products. The Food and Drug Administration has found many dietary supplement products marketed for weight loss to contain hidden drug ingredients or other ingredients that haven’t been adequately studied in humans.

Not only are they potentially unsafe, weight-loss supplements that advertise “quick fixes” likely won’t help you meet your goals. There’s limited scientific evidence that weight-loss supplements alone help people lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off. Question the claims on the label, and remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

For more information about weight-loss supplements, visit the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQs about Weight Loss and this factsheet from the Office of Dietary Supplements.

Teens: Say no to energy drinks

Energy drinks have become increasingly popular among teens, but they provide no health benefit and can even be harmful.

Energy drinks can actually pose health risks to adolescents, yet approximately 30% of teens consume them on a regular basis. The risks include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, anxiety, digestive problems, sleep disturbances, dehydration, and even death. In addition, teens who consume energy drinks are also more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors such as drinking more sugar-sweetened beverages, smoking cigarettes, and using drugs and alcohol.

Many of the negative effects associated with energy drinks are due to the large amounts of stimulants in these beverages. Their caffeine content can range from 50 to more than 300 mg per can or bottle. However, the amount of caffeine teens consume from energy drinks is trending upwards, in part due to heavy marketing with celebrity athletes.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children and teens consume no more than 100 mg of caffeine per day (equal to about 2 cans of caffeine-containing soda or one 8 oz. cup of coffee) and avoid energy drinks altogether. They provide no nutritional benefit.

Parents: Be sure to talk to your teens about the potential problems associated with energy drinks, and make sure they don’t confuse them with sports drinks, which teens should use only when needed.

Don’t fall for “all natural” claims

HPRC Fitness Arena: Dietary Supplements
Don’t rely on “all natural” claims as an indication that a supplement is safe.

Some dietary supplements are marketed as “all natural,” but do you know that this is actually an unregulated marketing term? So just because a product claims to be “all natural” doesn’t automatically make it safe. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that products marketed as “all natural” might contain ingredients that could interact with medications or be harmful to people with certain medical conditions or may even contain hidden drug ingredients. For example, according to FDA, supplements marketed as “all natural” sexual-enhancement products might be tainted with the same active ingredients found in prescription drugs used to treat erectile dysfunction. Not only could you potentially be consuming multiple drug ingredients, you could be consuming them in amounts even greater than prescription doses. Either way, these types of products can put your health and career in danger. For more information, please read FDA’s “Consumer Update on 'All Natural’ Alternatives…

Decoding the dietary supplement industry

The first step to being an informed supplement user is learning how the dietary supplement industry works.

You can’t always believe the marketing claims, advertisements, or even labels of dietary supplement products. That’s because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t approve or evaluate supplements for safety, quality, or effectiveness before they are sold on the market. FDA can, however, take action if a product is later found to be adulterated or misbranded or cause harm. Still, sometimes it can be hard to tell which supplements are safe and which you should leave on the shelf. To learn more, take a few minutes to watch this video from Operation Supplement Safety about Decoding the Dietary Supplement Industry.


Garcinia cambogia for weight loss?

Garcinia cambogia is a popular ingredient in weight-loss supplements, but what does the evidence say?

Garcinia cambogia, a pumpkin-like fruit, is a popular dietary supplement ingredient in products marketed for weight loss. Although Garcinia cambogia has been marketed as a weight-loss aid for quite some time, the latest scientific research still hasn’t proven its effectiveness. To learn more, read the updated Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ about Garcinia cambogia.

If you’re looking for ways to lose weight, OPSS and HPRC always recommend choosing foods first before considering dietary supplements. Visit HPRC’s Fighting Weight Strategies, where you’ll find joint-service and service-specific programs to help you achieve your goals.

Creatine supplements

Can creatine help you perform better?

Creatine supplements are popular among athletes and Warfighters trying to enhance their strength and muscle size. Unlike many other supplements, there is considerable evidence that taking creatine supplements might result in greater gains in body mass and strength when combined with resistance training. However, not all athletes or Warfighters will experience the same benefits from consuming creatine supplements, especially those focused on endurance training. And although there are few safety concerns associated with creatine, it’s still important to use it under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Read more...

Weighing in on green coffee beans

Green coffee bean extract is popular for weight loss, but don’t be fooled by all the hype surrounding this dietary supplement ingredient.

Green coffee bean extract has been available in dietary supplements for quite some time, but despite the hype and popularity of this ingredient, there’s little science to support its use as a weight-loss aid. Green coffee beans are the raw, unroasted seeds or “beans” of the Coffea plant. Similar to your morning cup of coffee, they contain caffeine in addition to a chemical called chlorogenic acid. The difference, though, is that green coffee beans contain more chlorogenic acid because roasting reduces the amount of chlorogenic acid in coffee beans.

Chlorogenic acid supposedly offers some health benefits, but don’t believe everything you hear (or read) about green coffee beans supplements for weight loss; there just isn’t enough evidence to back up these claims. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged a company for using deceptive weight-loss claims to market a green coffee bean supplement. Read more about this in FTC’s Press Release.

Are you sold on your supplement?

Should you take advice from people selling dietary supplement products?

When it comes to the topic of dietary supplements, a good rule of thumb is not to believe everything you hear or read from someone trying to sell you a product. Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) recently received Ask the Expert questions about products that were recommended by staff at stores, whether or not they were safe to take, and whether they would cause a positive result on a urinalysis test. In fact, two products were “high risk.”

If you’re considering a dietary supplement product, be sure to consult your healthcare provider first. Service dietitians can be another good resource to determine if you really need to supplement your diet. It’s important to know how to spot potential high-risk supplements. Find out too if there is reliable scientific evidence that the ingredients in a product actually work. For more information, OPSS has a comprehensive “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) section with subcategories about general and miscellaneous topics, dietary supplement ingredients, performance, and weight loss. Or, to watch some videos or short PSAs, click on “Tools for Warfighters,” and then the “Video” tab.

What’s a proprietary blend?

Does your supplement contain a “proprietary blend”? What does that tell you about its ingredients?

Before you take a dietary supplement, look at the Supplement Facts panel on the label and check to see if any of the ingredients are contained in a “proprietary blend.” Proprietary blends aren’t always called “proprietary blends” on the label (they might be described as “complexes,” “matrixes,” “formulas,” or other descriptive names), but you can tell if your product contains one if you see a list of ingredients without the amounts of each one next to them. Although the absence of a proprietary blend doesn’t automatically make a product safe, the presence of one is something to think twice about. To learn more, read the OPSS FAQ about proprietary blends.

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