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Dietary supplements and false claims

Do you know if a dietary supplement’s advertising promises more than the product can actually deliver? The Federal Trade Commission can help.

HPRC has often posted information about FDA and safety surrounding the topic of dietary supplements, but there’s another Federal agency watchdogging the supplements industry: the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). One of FTC’s primary missions is to protect consumers from unfair or deceptive business practices. That includes misleading or false advertising and claims. FTC advertising law states that all claims made by dietary supplement manufacturers and distributors must be substantiated before they are made. Unfortunately, not all supplement manufacturers follow the rules, so check out FTC’s new infographic to learn more about deciphering dietary supplement claims.

Just as FDA has a reporting system for adverse effects associated with dietary supplements, FTC has a consumer complaint process that you can use. For information about how to report a problem, visit this FTC web page

Don’t get scammed by “all natural” claims

FDA warns consumers about the dangers hidden in “all natural” dietary supplements, as well as products marketed to treat or cure certain conditions.

Dietary supplements that claim to be “all natural” aren’t necessarily safe. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued 2 Consumer Updates warning consumers about “all natural” products for erectile dysfunction and imported dietary supplements.

According to FDA, supplements marketed as “all natural” sexual-enhancement products might be tainted with hidden drug ingredients. Some of these are 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..."

Consumers should also beware of dietary supplements and nonprescription drugs marketed as “all natural” remedies for serious conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or heart disease. “Natural” does not necessarily mean safe, and these products also can contain undisclosed chemicals or drug ingredients that can be harmful. FDA specifically warns consumers about imported products sold online or at flea markets, or swap meets. Please read FDA’s Consumer Update on "Some Imported Dietary Supplements..." to learn more.

OPSS releases two new products

Use the new OPSS High-Risk Supplement List app and view “Get the Scoop on Supplements” to help you avoid dietary supplements that are dangerous to your health and career.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has two new products to help you stay safe when it comes to dietary supplements.

Now you can have the OPSS High-Risk Supplement List at your fingertips as a free app. With the app, you can either search the list for a specific product or use the barcode scanner to see if a product contains any high-risk ingredients such as stimulants, steroids, hormone-like ingredients, controlled substances, or unapproved drugs that could put your health or career at risk. For more information about how to download the app, please visit the Apps tab in Tools for Warfighters.

Want to learn more about supplements and how to choose them wisely? Check out the interactive presentation, “Get the Scoop on Supplements,” where you can watch videos, check your knowledge of dietary supplements, and find other helpful resources to help you reduce your risk of a positive urinalysis drug test and potential health issues. To view the presentation, please go to the Get the Scoop tab in Tools for Warfighters.

Decoding the dietary supplement industry

Not all supplements are created equal. Check out this new video from OPSS to learn more about the supplement industry and choosing supplements wisely.

Dietary supplements aren’t approved or evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration before they are sold on the market. That means there is no way to know whether a product contains the exact ingredients listed on the label or any undisclosed ingredients unless it’s tested in a laboratory. In fact, some supplements have been found to contain dangerous ingredients and even ingredients not allowable in dietary supplements. So how do you know which supplements are safe to take? Watch this new video from Operation Supplement Safety about Decoding the Dietary Supplement Industry.

Kratom concerns

Kratom use is on the rise, but is it safe?

Kratom (Mitragyna speciosa korth) is marketed and regulated as a dietary supplement in the United States, yet this psychostimulant has numerous side effects. It’s a tropical tree in Malaysia and has been used as an herbal drug for years. However, in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration says it is not approved for use in dietary supplements.

Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) has an FAQ on kratom, which includes pertinent information from the Drug Enforcement Administration. Also visit other OPSS FAQs on various dietary supplement ingredients.

Green coffee beans: What’s all the hype?

Green coffee beans are popular for weight loss, but don’t be fooled by all the hype surrounding this dietary supplement ingredient.

If you’re looking for ways to optimize your performance or perhaps drop some weight quickly, you may be tempted by the marketing hype and claims around green coffee beans, a dietary supplement ingredient often found in weight-loss products.

Green coffee beans are the raw, unroasted seeds or “beans” of the Coffea plant. They’re a source of caffeine, but they have become popular as a dietary supplement ingredient because they also contain a chemical called chlorogenic acid that supposedly offers some health benefits.

Some research suggests that chlorogenic acid might help with weight loss and prevent heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. However, there’s limited evidence to support the use of dietary supplement products with green coffee beans for weight loss or other health conditions, so consumers should beware of health claims associated with this ingredient. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sued a company for using unsupported weight-loss claims and fake news websites to market their green coffee extract dietary supplement. Read more in FTC’s Press Release.

Understanding drug-supplement interactions

Do you take dietary supplements and medications? Read about the risks in a new resource from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Many people take dietary supplements and medications together as a part of their daily health regimen, but few are aware of the potential for harmful interactions between prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and dietary supplements. To help you learn more about these types of interactions, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) created an interactive web resource that includes information about how supplements can change the effectiveness of your medications and how to work with your healthcare provide to make sure you’re taking them together safely. And for more information, please read HPRC’s Supplements and medications­ – What’s the problem?

Can SARMs do you harm?

SARMs can be found in some dietary supplement products, but are they legal and will they cause a positive drug test?

SARMs, or “selective androgen receptor modulators,” are experimental drugs that are illegal for use in dietary supplement products, but they still can be found in stores and on the Internet. SARMs are most often found in products advertised to have effects similar to those of anabolic steroids.

Read the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ about SARMs to learn more, including the ingredient names used for SARMs that may appear on dietary supplement labels. And remember: FDA does not approve dietary supplements prior to marketing. For more information on FDA’s role with regard to dietary supplements, visit FDA Basics.

Cannabidiol in dietary supplements

FDA says that products with the ingredient cannabidiol can’t be marketed as dietary supplements.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a major chemical found in marijuana that may have beneficial effects on certain health conditions, but it’s still being tested as a new drug. However, FDA recently announced that products containing CBD cannot be sold as dietary supplements.

Read the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ for more information, which also includes a link to the OPSS FAQ on hemp. While you’re there, check out our other OPSS FAQs. Still can’t find the answer you’re looking for? Use our “Ask the Expert” button located on the OPSS home page.

DMAA is still around

HPRC’s list of dietary supplement products containing DMAA has been updated again, revealing some new products even though DMAA is an illegal ingredient.

DMAA has been illegal as a dietary supplement ingredient for more than 2 years, but products containing this substance continue to be available. Many are still being produced (or produced again), and some are even new. That means it’s very important to read dietary supplement product labels carefully to make sure yours doesn’t contain this potentially dangerous ingredient. Not only could it be dangerous to your health, it could also be dangerous to your military career. DoD follows federal policy with regard to the use and possession of substances and products considered illegal.

Keep in mind, though, that pre-workout, weight loss, and other performance dietary supplements without DMAA also may not be safe for your health. In fact, FDA has already declared two DMAA “replacement” ingredients unsuitable for use in dietary supplements: DMBA and BMPEA. For more information, please visit these Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQs:

And please visit the newest update of “Dietary Supplement Products Containing DMAA,” which lists DMAA-containing products past and present.


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