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Protect yourself from health fraud

It’s National Consumer Protection Week, a reminder to always be an informed consumer of dietary supplements and other products.

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.

Put aside the pills and powders

Think you need that dietary supplement? Think again. National Nutrition Month reminds us to choose real foods first.

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.

Stimulants—Give your heart a break

Know what’s in your dietary supplement, and if it could affect your heart.

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. 

DMAA products persist

HPRC has updated its list of products containing DMAA.

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!

What’s a “new dietary ingredient”?

Some dietary supplements can contain at least one “new dietary ingredient.” If you haven’t heard this term before, you’re not alone.

If a dietary supplement product contains something called a “new dietary ingredient,” manufacturers or distributors must notify the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before marketing any product that contains the ingredient. Aside from this, FDA doesn’t review or approve dietary supplements before they’re marketed. So what’s a “new dietary ingredient,” what makes it different from other ingredients, and what has to be done before one can be used in dietary supplements? Find out in the OPSS FAQ about new dietary ingredients.

Do you have more questions about other dietary supplement terms, regulations, or policies? Check out the other OPSS FAQs for some answers. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, send us a question using our Ask the Expert feature.

Wondering about weight-loss supplements?

Ask yourself just three questions before you take a weight-loss supplement.

Trying to lose weight as your New Year’s resolution, meet body composition standards, or just be healthier? Weight-loss supplements might be a tempting solution, but before you take one, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it safe? Having a faster heart rate isn’t “normal” or a “good sign” that the supplement is working! Many weight-loss supplements contain plant-based ingredients and other stimulants that can have serious side effects such as chest pain, high blood pressure, and even heart attack. If you want to know about the safety of a specific product or ingredient, you can look it up in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.
  • Does it work? Unfortunately, just because a product seemed to work for your friend doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. 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.
  • Do you know what’s in it? Many dietary supplement products marketed for weight loss have been found to contain hidden prescription drugs or compounds that haven’t been adequately studied in humans. Be sure to check the label to see if the product has been evaluated by an independent third-party organization.

If your goal is to lose weight this year, challenge yourself to do it the old-fashioned way with a healthy eating plan and regular physical activity. And be patient: Making changes to your lifestyle and body takes time, but you will see results.

For more information about weight-loss supplements, visit the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQs about Weight Loss.

Stimulants in your supplement?

Do you know how to spot a stimulant and whether it’s a problem?

Stimulants are common (and potentially problematic) ingredients in dietary supplements such as pre-workout and weight-loss products. But do you know how to tell if your dietary supplement product actually contains a stimulant? OPSS has some answers. Check out the OPSS FAQs about why stimulants are a problem and how to identify them on labels, both of which link to our list of “Stimulants found in dietary supplements.”

And while you’re there, visit our other OPSS FAQs, where you’ll find information about specific stimulant ingredients such as DMAA, DMBA, BMPEA, yohimbe, and synephrine. We also have several FAQs about caffeine, probably the most common stimulant.

Chilling out with relaxation drinks?

Relaxation drinks seem like an appealing way to relieve stress, but some are not as harmless as they appear.

If you’re feeling stressed, don’t rely on liquid relaxation products to relieve your tension. While energy drinks are promoted to give you an extra boost, relaxation drinks* are marketed to do just the opposite and help you, well, relax. These products commonly contain the amino acid theanine, as well as several different plant-based ingredients. But the science doesn’t support the use of relaxation drinks to decrease stress or anxiety, and consumers should be cautious of two ingredients: kava and melatonin. Bottom line, if you’re feeling stressed, try to identify the cause, and then use stress management strategies backed by scientific evidence. Read more here.

Is 5-HTP the key?

Can 5-HTP help with depression, appetite, and other conditions?

Your body makes 5-HTP, but it can also be made in a lab and used in dietary supplements. Products containing 5-HTP are marketed to help with a number of health conditions, including appetite control and depression. Do they work? Read the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ on 5-HTP to find out.

Do you have other questions about dietary supplements that need answers? Then check out our other OPSS FAQs, where you’ll find information about performance products, weight-loss products, specific ingredients, and more. 

New videos on supplement risks

Check out Performance Triad’s videos about the potential health hazards associated with dietary supplement use.

Do you know what’s in your dietary supplement? In the case of supplements, ignorance isn’t bliss, and what you don’t know can put your health at risk. Performance Triad has created 2 videos highlighting the dangers of dietary supplements. In “The Dangers of Supplements,” Drill Sergeant David Cross talks about the consequences he dealt with from using supplements, including permanent liver damage. Also watch the Operation Supplement Safety App video to learn more about what goes into dietary supplements. You can download the OPSS app to get access right in your hands to information about thousands of dietary supplement products and ingredients. Please visit the Apps tab of HPRC’s Tools for the Warfighters to download the app.

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