Filed under: Dietary supplements
March is National Nutrition Month, a good reminder to eat healthfully and choose the best foods to fuel our bodies. This year’s theme is “Savor the Flavor of Eating Right,” which isn’t something we can often say about dietary supplements that come in the forms of pills and powders. If you’re looking for a supplement to lose weight, build muscle, or enhance your performance, HPRC always recommends choosing nutrient-rich foods first. They taste better and are better for you. Use the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) “Real Food” poster to see what foods can help you meet your goals.
If you’re still considering dietary supplements, be sure to visit OPSS where you’ll find answers to frequently asked questions, infosheets, videos, and other educational materials to help you make an informed decision. And remember to always talk to your doctor before taking any supplement.
If a dietary supplement product contains something called a “new dietary ingredient,” manufacturers or distributors must notify the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before marketing any product that contains the ingredient. Aside from this, FDA doesn’t review or approve dietary supplements before they’re marketed. So what’s a “new dietary ingredient,” what makes it different from other ingredients, and what has to be done before one can be used in dietary supplements? Find out in the OPSS FAQ about new dietary ingredients.
Do you have more questions about other dietary supplement terms, regulations, or policies? Check out the other OPSS FAQs for some answers. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, send us a question using our Ask the Expert feature.
Chia (Salvia hispanica) seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. As such, they have become a popular food item, and you can also find chia (seeds and oil) in many dietary supplements marketed to support heart and digestive health. On its own, chia will not produce a positive drug test. However, when you look at ingredient lists on product labels, don’t confuse Salvia hispanica (chia) with Salvia divinorum (Diviner’s sage), which is banned by some services. There are many types of salvia, so please read the OPSS FAQ about salvia for more information. If you’re interested in learning more about chia seeds, visit this webpage from MedlinePlus.
HPRC has received a lot of questions about phentermine, a prescription drug used for weight loss that’s similar to amphetamine. If you’re a service member, is it okay to use as long as you have a prescription? Will you pop positive on your drug test? Read the OPSS FAQ to find out answers to these questions.
For answers to other frequently asked questions that we’ve received, visit the FAQs section of OPSS. You can also visit the OPSS High-Risk Supplement List for information about certain dietary supplements that may pose a sport anti-doping or health risk.
Trying to lose weight as your New Year’s resolution, meet body composition standards, or just be healthier? Weight-loss supplements might be a tempting solution, but before you take one, ask yourself these questions:
- Is it safe? Having a faster heart rate isn’t “normal” or a “good sign” that the supplement is working! Many weight-loss supplements contain plant-based ingredients and other stimulants that can have serious side effects such as chest pain, high blood pressure, and even heart attack. If you want to know about the safety of a specific product or ingredient, you can look it up in the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database.
- Does it work? Unfortunately, just because a product seemed to work for your friend doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. There’s limited scientific evidence that weight-loss supplements alone help people lose a significant amount of weight and keep it off. Question the claims on the label, and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Do you know what’s in it? Many dietary supplement products marketed for weight loss have been found to contain hidden prescription drugs or compounds that haven’t been adequately studied in humans. Be sure to check the label to see if the product has been evaluated by an independent third-party organization.
If your goal is to lose weight this year, challenge yourself to do it the old-fashioned way with a healthy eating plan and regular physical activity. And be patient: Making changes to your lifestyle and body takes time, but you will see results.
For more information about weight-loss supplements, visit the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQs about Weight Loss.
Stimulants are common (and potentially problematic) ingredients in dietary supplements such as pre-workout and weight-loss products. But do you know how to tell if your dietary supplement product actually contains a stimulant? OPSS has some answers. Check out the OPSS FAQs about why stimulants are a problem and how to identify them on labels, both of which link to our list of “Stimulants found in dietary supplements.”
And while you’re there, visit our other OPSS FAQs, where you’ll find information about specific stimulant ingredients such as DMAA, DMBA, BMPEA, yohimbe, and synephrine. We also have several FAQs about caffeine, probably the most common stimulant.
Your body makes 5-HTP, but it can also be made in a lab and used in dietary supplements. Products containing 5-HTP are marketed to help with a number of health conditions, including appetite control and depression. Do they work? Read the Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) FAQ on 5-HTP to find out.
Do you have other questions about dietary supplements that need answers? Then check out our other OPSS FAQs, where you’ll find information about performance products, weight-loss products, specific ingredients, and more.
Do you know what’s in your dietary supplement? In the case of supplements, ignorance isn’t bliss, and what you don’t know can put your health at risk. Performance Triad has created 2 videos highlighting the dangers of dietary supplements. In “The Dangers of Supplements,” Drill Sergeant David Cross talks about the consequences he dealt with from using supplements, including permanent liver damage. Also watch the Operation Supplement Safety App video to learn more about what goes into dietary supplements. You can download the OPSS app to get access right in your hands to information about thousands of dietary supplement products and ingredients. Please visit the Apps tab of HPRC’s Tools for the Warfighters to download the app.
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.
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.