Skip to main content

Military Health System

Dietary Supplements: Educate Yourself First Before Trying Them

Image of Photo of a dinner plate with food and dietary supplements next to it. The supplement business is a multi-billion dollar industry that is not regulated like conventional food and drug products by the Food and Drug Administration. The use of supplements is designed to add further nutritional value to the diet, not act as a meal replacement (Photo by: Airman 1st Class Daniel Brosam, 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs).

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Weight Management for Lasting Health

Many military service members love dietary supplements.

Steeped in a culture of fitness and optimal performance, military professionals take dietary supplements at far higher rates than their civilian counterparts. Studies show that nearly two in every three service members takes some sort of daily dietary or herbal supplement.

Some supplements include basic ingredients like protein or multi-vitamins. Troops cite reasons for taking supplements that include "fitness, physical appearance, and occupational demands," according to one 2021 study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Yet, many others contain unfamiliar and unregulated ingredients that are hyped as tools for boosting testosterone and sexual performance, or speeding up the natural process for body building and losing weight.

"Many of these can be contaminated with undeclared drug ingredients, steroids, steroid-like ingredients and/or prescription drugs," said Dr. Melissa Givens, director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP).

Dietary supplements - and their sometimes dubious claims of health effects - are regulated differently than conventional foods or drugs by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

All dietary and herbal supplements claims are labeled with the disclaimer: "This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease."

Dietary and herbal supplement firms are responsible on their own for evaluating the safety and labeling of their products before marketing to ensure that they meet all the requirements of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. FDA is responsible for taking action against any adulterated or misbranded dietary supplement product after it reaches the market.

Marketers and advertisers often target service members with flashy logos and quick-fix claims about these supplements. That's why, to counter any health-related misinformation, CHAMP has created an online reference tool called Operation Supplement Safety.

Here you can find a list of prohibited dietary supplements that are considered high risk or are unapproved drugs. You'll also find the brands and names these supplements are marketed under.

DOD follows federal regulations on dietary supplements.

"Operation Supplement Safety's mission is to provide the best evidence-based information about dietary supplements to service members, their families, health care providers, and leaders to achieve human performance optimization," Givens explained.

"OPSS's goal is to provide the tools and resources to help users make informed decisions about dietary supplements."

OPSS includes an "Ask the Expert" feature that allows users to post questions about supplements directly to health experts.

Military personnel working towards becoming professional body builders
(From left to right) U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Steven Lopez, Petty Officer 3rd Class Kaleb Kirkpatrick and Seaman Shelton Johnson pose for a group portrait at Sector Jacksonville, Florida. Johnson, Lopez, and Kirkpatrick at the time were all amateur body builders working toward becoming professional body builders (Photo by: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Bobby Nash).

Are Dietary Supplements Dangerous?

Products claiming to boost testosterone levels are often marketed as body-building products.

Testosterone is a natural hormone but artificial testosterone products can elevate those natural hormone levels to the point where "the body slows down regulating the natural production of the hormone and you can become dependent on the product," said Army Capt. Joshua Lockwood, chief of Nutrition Clinical Services at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

"This withdrawal can affect your sleep, increase fatigue, negatively affect your sex drive, and cause steroid cravings," Lockwood said.

These products can damage your liver and kidneys if taken orally over a longer period of time, he said.

Testosterone or artificial testosterone boosting-products can also increase the size of the heart, "where the left ventricle thickens" and can lead to high blood pressure and baldness, Lockwood said.

One of the products on the CHAMPS "prohibited" list is selective androgen receptor modulators, or SARMs, and yet "we see these marketed just off base," Lockwood said.

"The culture is you want to be a strong warrior," Lockwood said. "There's no harm in that unless you go about becoming that strong warrior by use of risky supplements or you are suffering from an altered self-image condition called muscle dysmorphia," which is a mental health disorder in which you can't stop thinking you are small or weak even though you are above average in strength and muscle size.

Performance Fueling

The final piece of advice from experts is to try for performance fueling from your regular diet. CHAMP offers many resources on that topic. Additionally, consult with your health care provider to see what, if any, dietary supplements you might need.

For example, your health care provider may want to check your vitamin D levels as some people are low in that vitamin, especially if they are not regularly exposed to sunlight.

"Eating a well-balanced diet should provide you with all the vitamins and minerals you need for optimal health," said Navy Lt. Lorna Brown, head of Naval Hospital Bremerton's Nutrition Management department, Washington state, and a registered dietitian.

"Occasionally people may follow a diet, or have food intolerance or allergy that can affect the intake of some vitamins and minerals. Consult a registered dietitian to see what dietary adjustments can be made or to discuss picking a dietary supplement safely," she said.

You also may be interested in...

Tips for How to ‘Train Right’ and Avoid Injuries During Sports and PT

Article
10/13/2021
Military personnel in physical threapy

Physical training, recreational activities, and sports are key to service members’ health but musculoskeletal injuries due to sudden incidents and repeated stress or overuse are the biggest health problem in the U.S. military.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness

Fort Knox dietician reveals personal staples for healthy family meals, picky eaters

Article Around MHS
10/8/2021
Vegetables displayed at a grocery store.

Making sure everyone in the family is eating healthy can sometimes be overwhelming and oftentimes, families aren’t sure where to start.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness

Momentum builds as Army implements Holistic Health and Fitness

Article Around MHS
10/5/2021
Soldiers prepare to exercise.

The Army’s implementation of Holistic Health and Fitness, or H2F, has made significant progress over the past year as the Army’s primary investment in Soldier readiness and lethality.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness

Health Promotion duo optimizes health on Incirlik Air Base

Article Around MHS
9/30/2021
Air Force Capt. Sydney Sloan, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion element chief (right), and Air Force Senior Airman Gloriann Manapsal, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion technician (left), promote making healthy choices at the Sultan’s Inn Dining Facility on Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

The 39th Operation Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion team provides and integrates evidence-based programs to optimize the health and readiness, even during these unprecedented times.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Total Force Fitness | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

DHA’s Mobile Apps Can Help You with Overall Wellness

Article
9/30/2021
A smartphone user using the DHA's Air Force MissionFit app

Healthcare and wellness apps developed by the DHA are proliferating.

Recommended Content:

Health Care Technology | Total Force Fitness

Regular physical activity is important for health and performance

Article Around MHS
9/29/2021
A Coast Guardsman works out at Coast Guard Air Station Savannah.

Those who get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week have a much lower risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease—the top killers of Americans every year.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness

Finding time for fitness during the work week just got easier

Article Around MHS
9/29/2021
A person works out the gym.

The new Army Civilian Fitness and Health Promotion Program now encourages employees to focus on fitness while at work.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Total Force Fitness

What is a "healthy" weight-loss eating plan, anyway?

Article Around MHS
9/28/2021
A female soldier poses with an apple in her hand.

Weight loss sounds simple: take less “energy in” (fuel from food and drinks, measured in calories) and use more “energy out” (calories burned through daily physical activity and exercise).

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Total Force Fitness

JRTC, Fort Polk promote health, fitness for civilian workforce

Article Around MHS
9/23/2021
Luewana Hannon (left), community ready and resilient integrator, provides information to Georgia Louis (right) during the education and information fair at the Join Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk Army Community Service, Sept. 20.

The Civilian Fitness and Health Promotions Program hosted an education and information fair at the Join Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk Army Community Service, Sept. 20.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness

Understanding Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, Support for Military Children

Article
9/21/2021
Non-suicidal self-injury by adolescents vary based on studies — from 1 in 6 to as high as 1 in 4 — rates have increased over the past 20 years. Given this prevalence and the associated health risks, it’s crucial for anyone treating adolescents to be aware of NSSI.

Non-suicidal self-injury by adolescents vary based on studies — from 1 in 6 to as high as 1 in 4 — rates have increased over the past 20 years.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Public Health

Food Safety Month: Commissaries Join Other Agencies in Highlighting Foodborne Illness Prevention

Article Around MHS
9/13/2021
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Spc. Crystal Vice, a veterinary food inspection specialist with Public Health Activity Fort Carson, checks the expiration date on a peanut butter container Oct. 13, 2020, at the Fort Carson Commissary. Food inspectors randomly check food and other items before they’re put on the shelves for sale. (Photo by Eric E. Parris)

During Food Safety Education Month in September, DeCA joins the Centers for Disease Control, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Food Safety Inspection Service, the Department of Health and Human Services and other organizations in reinforcing foodborne illness awareness and prevention.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Public Health

As Fitness Tests Resume, Troops Seek Post-COVID Exercise Routines

Article
8/31/2021
Military personnel physically training

Keeping fit during pandemic proves hard for some.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Coronavirus & the MHS Response

How Good Diet and Exercise Prevent Injury and Disease

Article
8/30/2021
Photo of group doing pushups.

A proper diet and exercise regimen can ward off disease and aid in maintaining your health.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Injury Prevention | Nutritional Fitness

MHS and MOS Town Hall To Your Health: Dental Health

Article
8/24/2021
MHS and Military OneSource Townhall graphic

MHS and Military OneSource presents a discussion about Dental Health.

Recommended Content:

Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental | Total Force Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | TRICARE Dental Care

Stay Hydrated for Optimal Performance

Article
8/10/2021
A soldier takes a drink from his canteen.

Proper hydration is key to optimal performance.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Nutritional Fitness
<< < ... 6 7 8 9 10  ... > >> 
Showing results 106 - 120 Page 8 of 12
Refine your search
Last Updated: December 28, 2021
Follow us on Instagram Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on YouTube Sign up on GovDelivery