Is there a list of dietary supplements/substances banned by the military?— published: 02-28-2012
Lately, HPRC has been receiving a lot of questions about banned supplements in the military, but the fact is, there isn’t a list of banned dietary supplements currently available. It isn’t always easy to determine whether a dietary supplement product is safe or not, so the Department of Defense (DoD) is working on an educational campaign to inform Warfighters and their families about potential health risks involved with taking dietary supplements and steps to take before choosing/using a dietary supplement. And although DoD currently has no formal policy on the use of dietary supplements, a committee is working to establish such a policy.
Some dietary supplements, including ones sold on military installations, may contain potentially harmful and problematic ingredients. HPRC has put together the resource Red Flags: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe and Avoid Fraud. Of particular note are problematic, potentially dangerous ingredients that could be red flags, including approved prescription drug ingredients and their analogs, drugs banned by the FDA for safety reasons, controlled substances (such as anabolic steroids), and untested/unstudied new active drug ingredients.
You can also learn more on how to make informed decisions about dietary supplements and natural products from the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD). HPRC has made this available to all active-duty personnel; a “.mil” email address is required to create an account. We encourage consumers of dietary supplements to consider only using products rated eight or above on their rating scale. These are in the green area of the scale and have evidence of safety. Items in the yellow range mean data are lacking, and the red area indicates well-known safety concerns and/or proven ineffectiveness. HPRC makes this user-friendly database readily available through links on its website for both Warfighters and healthcare professionals. Choose the appropriate version and follow the instructions to create an account.
Generally, if a supplement is not banned or recalled by the FDA, FTC, or DEA, then it is not banned by DoD. One way to ensure that a dietary supplement product is safe is to see if it is third-party verified. Third-party certification organizations have developed criteria for evaluating and authenticating the quality of a supplement—the ingredients, the dosage levels, the level of contaminants, the label claims, and whether the manufacturing facilities follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP). Currently, United States Pharmacopeia (USP) and NSF International conduct safety reviews, and NSF screens for substances banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) or United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Multiple professional sport/athletic organizations—including MLB, NHL, NBA, NFL, and NCAA—currently have policies requesting the use of NSF-certified products only. Shop for products with seals from USP and NSF International.
We encourage you to talk with your healthcare provider or dietitian before using dietary supplements to avoid potential problems. Also, see FDA’s list of tainted body building products, which includes important public notifications.