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...

Exoskeleton to Enhance Safety, Retention for Aerial Porters, Others

Article Around MHS
10/26/2022
Military personnel pushes exoskeleton robotic fitness machine

The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Center for Rapid Innovation, or CRI, held an event Oct. 6 with the U.S. Air Force Reserve Commander’s 445th Airlift Wing for a robotics team to demonstrate the latest Forge System, a pneumatically powered exoskeleton that augments leg strength to reduce fatigue, increase endurance, and offset weight.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Research and Innovation

Getting Back to the Fight

Article Around MHS
10/6/2022
Military personnel working out

Training for America’s next battles will always involve risk. Creating an environment that simulates the many elements of warfare is an ever-changing obstacle, but the Marine Corps has always adapted to these obstacles.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Injury Prevention

Army Builds Tool to Save Lives at High Altitude

Article Around MHS
9/30/2022
Military researchers in the mountains of New Mexico

Mountain climbing is risky business. When unacclimatized individuals rapidly ascend to altitudes greater than 8,000 feet, they put themselves at risk for suffering from high-altitude illnesses. The addition of hard physical exercise, typical of a military mission, increases this level of risk. Detecting these illnesses prior to occurrence has the potential to save lives.

Recommended Content:

Research and Innovation | Physical Fitness

H2F Making a Difference, Tackling the Whole Approach to Care

Article Around MHS
9/15/2022
Military personnel with H2F emblem

Suicide Prevention Month officially kicked off with a suicide survivor panel at the Fort Bragg Soldier and Family Readiness Group Center

Recommended Content:

Mental Health: Seeking Care with TRICARE | Suicide Prevention Toolkit | Nutritional Fitness | Suicide Prevention | Spiritual Fitness | Sleep | Mental Health is Health Care

Mental Health Office Helps AUAB Members Maintain Readiness

Article Around MHS
8/30/2022
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Melissa Leonardo smiles for photo

Comprehensive Airman Fitness is comprised of physical, social, spiritual and mental fitness. Being physically fit to fight and maintaining a war fighter spirit are crucial to completing the mission.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Spiritual Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Depression | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder | Anxiety | Stress | Mental Health: Seeking Care with TRICARE | Mental Health is Health Care

Battalion Hosts Critical Medical Training

Article Around MHS
8/24/2022
Military personnel in combat training exercise

Allied Forces North Battalion conducted a week-long Combat Lifesaver Course July 25-29.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Education & Training | Building Partner Capacity and Interoperability | Global Health Security Agenda

Wellness Fair Showcases Ample Resources at Naval Hospital Bremerton

Article Around MHS
8/2/2022
Military personnel demonstrating a grip therapy

Naval Hospital Bremerton hosted a holistic Wellness Fair in late July 2022.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Performance Nutrition: Fuel Your Body and Mind | Total Body Preventive Health - Dental, Medical & Mental | Nutritional Fitness | Health Readiness Support

Mind-Body Mental Fitness

Article Around MHS
7/27/2022
Mountain view

The lifestyle of active duty service members and their families comes with unique stressors that can often be compounded by living overseas. What most people don’t realize is that stress is a normal part of life. The feelings of stress are just indicators that something in our life needs attention, and even presents a possibility for positive change and growth.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Physical Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Stress | Mental Health is Health Care

Yoga Shield: Building Mental and Physical Resiliency

Article Around MHS
7/27/2022
Military personnel doing yoga

More than 30 Airmen assigned to the Ohio National Guard’s 178th Wing and the Iowa National Guard’s 132nd Wing began a week-long, 60-hour yoga training program July 18 at the 178th Wing in Springfield, Ohio.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Psychological Fitness

Teddy Roosevelt, Navy Medicine, and the Birth of Physical Readiness

Article Around MHS
7/25/2022
Military personnel in exercise drill on deck of Navy ship

Today’s U.S. Navy espouses a “culture of fitness,” and “physical readiness,” but this was not always the case. In the early 1900s, many including the president himself, Theodore Roosevelt, were appalled by the lack of physical conditioning in the Navy.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Physical Fitness

Registered Dietitians Take a Run at Performance Nutrition

Article Around MHS
7/22/2022
Military personnel at a run relay

There’s a nourishing parallel between running a 200-mile relay to conducting flight deck operations or being involved in field exercises.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness

August Performance Triad Month

Article Around MHS
7/21/2022
Color graphic depicting aspects of wellness.

As part of its August “P3 for All” campaign, the U.S. Army Public Health Center is encouraging all Army leaders, soldiers, family members and soldiers for life to embrace the synergy of sleep, activity and nutrition, the core components of the Performance Triad, along with the important elements of mental readiness and spiritual readiness.

Recommended Content:

Total Force Fitness | Physical Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Sleep

Power Plate: Eat to Fuel Your Performance

Article Around MHS
7/19/2022
Infographic for Power Plate

Food is our secret weapon. When planned and executed well food can supply everything our bodies need to thrive, whether we’re running a marathon or taking a rest day.

Recommended Content:

Performance Nutrition: Fuel Your Body and Mind | Health Readiness & Combat Support | Nutritional Fitness

JBLM Army spouse combats PTSD with physical fitness

Article Around MHS
7/13/2022
Military personnel in physical training session

Stress and anxiety are a normal part of life, but anxiety disorders like PTSD, which affect 40 million adults, are the most common psychiatric illnesses in the U.S.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Beating the Stigma: Workhorse Battalion and H2F Team Up to Improve Physical Readiness

Article Around MHS
6/24/2022
Military personnel bench pressing

To help counter that stigma of being "broken", the 10th Division Sustainment Troops Battalion “Workhorse,” 10th Mountain Division Sustainment Brigade, and the brigade’s Holistic Health and Fitness team, also known as H2F, joined forces to create the Unbreakable Warrior program, also known as UBW.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Physical Fitness
<< < 1 2 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 2
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