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Women’s health and dietary supplements

Military Health System has designated October as Women’s Health Awareness month. Find out how dietary supplements play a role in a women’s life.

About half of all military personnel use some dietary supplements, and military women most commonly use weight-loss supplements. But is there a place for dietary supplements in enhancing women’s health? Dietary supplements, by definition, are intended to “supplement the diet” and can contain a dietary ingredient such as a vitamin, mineral, herb or other botanical, amino acid, or combinations of these and/or other substances or constituents intended to be consumed by mouth.

Active women may require more nutrients, but vitamin and mineral needs normally can be met by eating a variety of nutrient-rich foods. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans focus largely on the recommendation that nutrient-dense foods and beverages—such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds—can provide all the nutrients needed by most everyone. These recommendations are based on research that shows a varied, healthy diet lowers the risk of most diseases.

Some dietary supplements have been found to be beneficial for women’s health, such as folic acid, iron, and calcium. Folic acid, a B vitamin involved in the production of new cells in the body, has been shown to help prevent birth defects. Women who are thinking of becoming pregnant or are pregnant should take a supplement that includes 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. Fortified foods such as green, leafy vegetables, enriched whole grain breads, flour, pasta, rice, and most ready-to-eat cereals also contain folic acid. Adolescent girls, women of childbearing age, and especially pregnant women also need more iron, which is a mineral involved in the transport of oxygen in the body. Women in these groups should choose iron-rich foods, particularly red meat, fish, and poultry, as well as iron-fortified foods. When iron levels are low, symptoms may include feeling extra tired and weak, along with a decrease in immune function. A healthcare provider or dietitian can determine the need for supplementation if diet alone cannot maintain iron levels or for those who have iron-deficiency anemia. Calcium is an important mineral that helps maintain strong bones, healthy teeth, and proper functioning of the heart, muscles, and nerves. All women should strive to get their calcium from foods such as low-fat milk, yogurt, cheese, dark-green, leafy vegetables, and foods such as orange juice and soy milk that have been calcium-fortified. Those who may need more should discuss calcium supplement options with a dietitian, since there are many forms available and it is important to determine how much and which kind is suitable for your particular needs.

Some dietary supplement products marketed for weight loss are targeted toward women. Do they work? According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), some weight-loss supplements contain hidden prescription drug ingredients. For additional information, see Operation Supplement Safety’s (OPSS) “Are there any safe supplements to help me lose weight?” Furthermore, women looking to enhance their performance may turn to dietary supplement products. OPSS has additional resources for competitive athletes to search for particular products that are certified, as well as helpful red flags on what to avoid.

Some women’s nutrient needs differ from those of men, and they can vary over the course of a lifetime. From adolescent girls, to women of childbearing age, to women over 50, these needs change based on the demands of the physiological changes that occur in the body.  One thing is certain: A variety of nutritious food is really the spice of life and should be the basis for fueling all of life’s stages.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database App

Healthcare provider app to get answers and data on natural medicines at any time.

Healthcare providers can search for safety and effectiveness ratings for commercially available dietary supplement products, potential interactions between drugs and natural medicines, and other effectiveness ratings for natural medicines used for health conditions. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD) App is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android. Use your .mil email address to open an account with NMCD. See more information here. And watch for the Warfighter version coming soon!

Consumer Reports on 10 hazards of dietary supplements

The Consumer Reports website recently posted an article outlining the potential dangers of dietary supplement products.

People take dietary supplements for lots of different reasons, and some may take them because they believe they are “natural” and therefore safe. A new article from ConsumerReports.org lists 10 hazards of taking dietary supplement products, pointing out that supplements are not risk-free.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) is about to launch this summer and will answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Watch for HPRC’s announcement coming soon.

FDA reports dietary supplement manufacturing violations

About half of those dietary supplement manufacturers inspected by FDA found to have manufacturing violations.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found violations in manufacturing practices in half of almost 450 dietary supplement companies it has inspected over the last four years, according to a Chicago Tribune article. The implications of these findings can have serious health problems for consumers. Since dietary supplement manufacturers are the ones responsible for ensuring a product is safe before it is marketed, the FDA inspects companies to check for compliance and takes action only if a product is deemed unsafe after it has been marketed. For more information, see the FDA website’s Dietary Supplements section.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) will launch this summer, with answers to many of the questions you may have about Dietary Supplements. Watch for HPRC’s announcement coming soon.

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HPRC’s DMAA list updated again

HPRC’s list of DMAA-containing dietary supplement products has just been updated, including more products found to contain DMAA and many more that are no longer being produced.

The latest update of HPRC’s list of DMAA-containing dietary supplement products is now available online. The list now indicates more than 80 products that have been removed from the market or reformulated to exclude DMAA, or that no longer include DMAA in the list of ingredients on the label and/or manufacturer’s website. In addition, DMAA-containing versions of recently removed/reformulated products are likely to still be on the market until retail stocks have been depleted, so be sure to read labels carefully. However, the only way to determine if DMAA is no longer in a product is through laboratory testing.

HPRC has begun to hear from manufacturers and distributors about changes to their products to exclude DMAA. Please note that products now seem to change almost daily, while the list is updated about every six weeks. We welcome input to help us keep track of changes.

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Alert: Dendrobium for performance?

A new dietary ingredient—a stimulant—has emerged in dietary supplement products marketed to boost athletic performance.

A new dietary supplement ingredient, dendrobium, is appearing rapidly in dietary supplement products promoted to boost athletic performance. According to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, manufacturers claim that dendrobium is a natural source of the stimulant phenylethylamine, but some researchers say that phenylethylamine doesn’t occur naturally in dendrobium. Phenylethylamine is a stimulant, with effects similar to those of amphetamines. At this time, the safety of dendrobium is unknown, so users should be aware that products containing this ingredient might be unsafe, particularly when used in combination with exercise.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) is about to launch this summer and will answer many of your questions about Dietary Supplements. Watch for HPRC’s announcement coming soon.

 

Tainted products widget

Alerts and health information about tainted products marketed as dietary supplements are now automatically displayed on HPRC’s Dietary Supplement page via FDA’s “widget.”

Up-to-date information on tainted products marketed as dietary supplements are now provided on HPRC’s Dietary Supplement domain page via a “widget” from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Recent product alerts and health information on products marketed for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding are automatically displayed and updated as the FDA adds new notifications. Please see this new feature by visiting HPRC’s Dietary Supplements section.

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Updated DMAA list available

 HPRC’s list of DMAA-containing dietary supplement products has just been updated.

The latest update of HPRC’s list of DMAA-containing dietary supplement products is now available online. Six more products have apparently been removed from the market; one has been added to the list because the fact that it contains DMAA is stated only on the product label, not on the manufacturer’s website.

Stars and Stripes reports: Army study on DMAA will continue

The Army will continue its own study on the effects of DMAA even after the FDA sent warning letters to marketers and distributors of dietary supplement products with DMAA.

Following in the wake of the Food and Drug Administration’s warning letters to manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements containing DMAA, the Army announced that its own study on the effects of DMAA on soldiers will continue. Read about the announcement and more in the recent Stars and Stripes article. For more information about the FDA’s action, you can read HPRC’s post, which also includes a link to the FDA news release.

FDA Warns Companies about DMAA Safety

Marketers and distributors of products containing DMAA warned by FDA.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent warning letters to manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements containing 1,3-dimethylamylamine (DMAA) due to lack of safety evidence provided before marketing. The FDA states that information about the safety of DMAA as a dietary supplement ingredient has not been identified. For more information, see the FDA News Release and HPRC’s latest on Dietary Supplement Products Containing DMAA.

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