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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.

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.

Mixing supplements and medications

Is there any harm in taking dietary supplements if you use medications?

Dietary supplements and medications (prescription or over-the-counter) can be a risky combination. That’s because many dietary supplement ingredients, especially herbs and botanicals, can interact with drugs (such as ones to treat blood pressure, diabetes, depression, and anxiety) or even other dietary supplements. Interactions between drugs and supplements can result in either an increase or decrease in the effectiveness of your medications. In other words, you could be getting too much or too little of the medications that you need, which can be dangerous to your health. If you’re taking or plan to take a dietary supplement, inform your healthcare provider to make sure it’s safe to use with your medications.

Learn more about how supplements can change the effectiveness of your medications and know when drug-supplement interactions are especially important by using this interactive web resource from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). And for information about many known interactions between dietary supplement ingredients and medications, as well as other dietary supplement ingredients, visit the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD).

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.

Is DMAA coming back?

Our most recent list of DMAA products on the Internet market shows a rise in the number available, including some apparently new products.

DMAA has been illegal for use as an ingredient in dietary supplements for more than 3 years. It still is, but just when you think it would be disappearing from the market, it seems to be on a slight rise again. Our online search of available dietary supplements with DMAA turned up 11 products we had never encountered before, in addition to 34 products still on the list since before DMAA became illegal. We also found 50 discontinued products with DMAA still being sold by third-party retail outlets.

Unfortunately, illegal substances of all kinds are readily available on the Internet. For example, ephedra has been illegal since 2004, when FDA acted on growing reports of severe adverse events, including deaths, associated with the popular weight-loss supplement ingredient. However, products containing ephedra are commonly marketed online. Even substances on the Drug Enforcement Agency’s list of controlled substances can be purchased online. Worse, laboratory testing of dietary supplement products sometimes reveals the presence of illegal ingredients even when they aren’t listed on the products’ labels.

Ingredients such as DMAA are not allowed in dietary supplements because, according to FDA, “they can be a health risk to consumers.” Stay informed, starting with the OPSS FAQ about DMAA and updated list of Dietary Supplements/Products Containing DMAA.


Are you having an adverse event?

Feeling funny? It could be an adverse event.

An adverse event from a dietary supplement is any undesirable health effect you might experience. It could be mild or life threatening. It’s important to know how to recognize symptoms that might impact readiness. To learn how, read the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ on adverse events, which also has a link to a form for reporting adverse events to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. All forms are then sent to FDA. Documenting adverse events is an essential part of how the FDA evaluates potentially dangerous dietary supplements.

Manufacturers and distributors also are required to notify FDA of adverse events by calling the 800 telephone number located on product labels.

NO supplements or not??

Nitric oxide supplements are popular pre-workout supplements, but do they deliver on their promises to boost performance?

“Explosive workouts.” “Extreme pumps.” “Enhanced endurance.” These are just some of the marketing claims used to promote nitric oxide (NO) supplements. Interestingly though, NO supplements don’t actually contain any nitric oxide, which is a gas. Instead, these types of supplements usually contain amino acids plus various other ingredients. So will these supplements fulfill their promises of improving your performance or are they just “full of hot air”? Read the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ on nitric oxide supplements to find out.

More “tainted” products

FDA continues to identify over-the-counter products, including dietary supplements, containing hidden active ingredients. Could yours be one of them?

Since July 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released over 25 Public Notifications about individual supplement products marketed for sexual enhancement and weight loss that contain hidden active ingredients. Through laboratory testing, these products were found to contain drugs and controlled substances—ingredients that pose health and readiness risks. For a list of these Public Notifications, visit FDA’s Tainted Sexual Enhancement Products and Tainted Weight Loss Products.

The most common types of products found to contain “undeclared” ingredients (that is, substances not listed on the label) are those marketed for weight loss, sexual enhancement, and bodybuilding. Dietary supplements don’t require FDA approval before being put on the market, and there is no way to know the contents of a product without laboratory testing. So if you’re considering a dietary supplement, check the label to see if the product has been evaluated by an independent third-party organization.

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