Filed under: Weight loss
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.
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.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) just released its recommendations for obesity prevention in response to the rising obesity rates in the United States, a problem that affects the military. IOM has also developed an interesting graphic that shows where significant problems lie and how we can change our communities to help solve them. See the graphic and download the free report here.
National Nutrition Month is still going strong, bringing lots of healthy eating information to the attention of Americans. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is weighing in with their “Get Your Plate in Shape” campaign, which focuses on getting the right nutrition without too many calories. Their Eat Right website page offers snack ideas, recipes, weight management tips, and exercise nutrition advice.
What do you put in your body to boost your performance, increase your energy, shed pounds, build muscle, or otherwise supplement your diet? What’s in that drink, pill, or powder? What will it do for you? What will it do to you? Is it worth the risk?
More and more Warfighters are taking dietary supplements, most without being fully informed that some of the ingredients could have harmful side effects. HPRC has just unveiled its Dietary Supplement Classification System to provide this kind of information and help you make informed decisions about a particular supplement. To start exploring this new resource, visit HPRC’s new web pages. If you have a question, contact us via “Ask the Expert.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising consumers to stop using multiple weight-loss products that contain the undeclared drug ingredient sibutramine, which was removed from the market in 2010 for safety reasons and may present significant risks for those with coronary artery disease and other heart issues. The following 18 products have received FDA Public Notifications advising consumers not to purchase or use any of them:
- Lose Weight Coffee
- Dream Body Slimming Capsule
- Pai You Guo Slim Tea
- Botanical Slimming
- Fruit Plant Lossing Fat Capsule
- Sheng Yuan Fang
- Acai Berry Soft Gel ABC
- PhentraBurn Slimming Capsules
- Magic Slim Tea
- Magic Slim Weight Reduction Capsule
- P57 Hoodia
- Leisure 18 Slimming Coffee
- A-Slim 100% Natural Slimming Capsule
- Advanced Slim 5
- Ja Dera 100% Natural Weight Loss Supplement
- Slender Slim 11
For more information, see the FDA Tainted Weight Loss Products page, and click on a product name under “Public Notifications.”
Dietary supplement products containing DMAA have been temporarily removed from military stores by the AAFES, but they are still available on the public retail market. HPRC has prepared a list of many of these products to help you watch for them if you are considering the purchase of dietary supplements. DMAA is found most commonly in products sold for bodybuilding or weight loss, but it can also be found in other performance-enhancing products, as well as in recreational party pills. The list also includes other names for DMAA that may be found on product labels. To download the list, go to the Dietary Supplements Resources page under the “Resources” tab, or just
Looking for programs to help manage your weight? The Human Performance Resource Center just posted its new “Fighting Weight Strategies” page, where we have compiled a list of programs and resources, arranged by service, for maintaining overall health and body weight. You can find these helpful resources by going to the Fighting Weight Strategies page of HPRC’s website.
Pistachios contain the “good fat”—unsaturated (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated)—which can help blood cholesterol levels and decrease risk of heart disease. They are also a good source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And if you’re watching your weight, pistachios can still be a healthy choice for a snack, as shown in a recent study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Read more about this study and about other pistachio health benefits at www.pistachiohealth.com.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking to bar deceptive claims made by websites posing as reputable news sites to entice consumers to buy acai berry weight-loss products. The FTC says these companies are not “news-gathering organizations” and their claims that acai berry supplements can cause rapid weight loss are unsupported. For more information, read the FTC release: “FTC Seeks to Halt 10 Operators of Fake News Sites from Making Claims About Acai Berry Weight Loss Products.”