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...

Army Dietician Shares Importance of Healthy Eating: Dinner

Video
8/3/2022
Army Dietician Shares Importance of Healthy Eating: Dinner

With the start of school right around the corner, Capt. Caitlyn Shaver, chief of clinical nutrition at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, explains the importance of dinner as a way to bring the family together.

Recommended Content:

Back to School | Nutritional Fitness

Army Dietician Shares Importance of Healthy Eating: Snacking

Video
8/3/2022
Army Dietician Shares Importance of Healthy Eating: Snacking

With the start of school right around the corner, Capt. Caitlyn Shaver, chief of clinical nutrition at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, explains the importance of healthy snacking.

Recommended Content:

Nutritional Fitness | Back to School

Army Dietician Shares Importance of Healthy Eating: Breakfast

Video
8/3/2022
Army Dietician Shares Importance of Healthy Eating: Breakfast

With the start of school right around the corner, Capt. Caitlyn Shaver, chief of clinical nutrition at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital on Fort Campbell, Kentucky, explains the importance of eating breakfast.

Recommended Content:

Back to School | Nutritional Fitness

Army Dietician Shares Importance of Healthy Eating: Meals on the Go

Video
8/3/2022
Army Dietician Shares Importance of Healthy Eating: Meals on the Go

With the start of school right around the corner, Capt. Caitlyn Shaver, chief of clinical nutrition at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, explains the importance of balanced meals-on-the-go.

Recommended Content:

Back to School | Nutritional Fitness

Performance Nutrition: The Best Ways to Eat

Video
7/11/2022
Performance Nutrition: The Best Ways to Eat

USU professor and nutrition specialist, Jonathan Scott PhD, gives advice on eating healthy. Learn more about the Dietician Approved Fueling stations at your local commissary here: https://www.commissaries.com/fueling_stations

Recommended Content:

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

The Dangers of Dietary Supplements

Video
7/11/2022
The Dangers of Dietary Supplements

Did you know that 75% of service members use at least 1 dietary supplement? Experts from the Uniformed Services University discuss the risks and safety concerns of dietary supplements. Learn more about dietary supplements at www.OPSS.org and The Consortium of Health & Military Performance (CHAMP).

Recommended Content:

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

What is Performance Nutrition

Video
7/11/2022
What is Performance Nutrition

Learn more about Performance Nutrition and healthy eating habits at the Consortium for Health & Military Performance. https://champ.usuhs.edu/. For more information about the Dietician Approved Fueling stations at your local commissary, go to https://www.commissaries.com/fueling_stations

Recommended Content:

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

What should I eat after a workout?

Video
6/22/2022
What should I eat after a workout?

Ever wonder how to fuel up post-workout to maximize recovery and support your fitness? Check out these tips from the Human Performance Resources by CHAMP, part of the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences to enhance your performance! #PerformanceNutrition #FueltoFight #USU #HPRC”

Recommended Content:

Performance Nutrition: Fuel Your Body and Mind | Nutritional Fitness | Physical Fitness

Considering supplements? Stay Informed

Video
6/22/2022
Considering supplements? Stay Informed

Stay informed when considering supplements to help you reach your performance and fitness goals with this video from Operation Supplement Safety, the #DOD dietary supplement resource at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. #PerformanceNutrition #FueltoFight #OPSS #USU

Recommended Content:

Performance Nutrition: Fuel Your Body and Mind | Nutritional Fitness

6 Essential Nutrients

Video
6/22/2022
6 Essential Nutrients

Are you getting the right nutrients from your diet? Check out this overview of the six essential nutrients to optimize your performance and fitness from Human Performance Resources by CHAMP at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. #PerformanceNutrition #FueltoFight #USU #HPRC

Recommended Content:

Performance Nutrition: Fuel Your Body and Mind | Nutritional Fitness

Heart Health Month 2022

Video
2/11/2022
Heart Health Month 2022

Love letter from your heart. Happy Heart Health Month!

Recommended Content:

Heart Health | Total Force Fitness | Heart Health Toolkit

Bod Pod

Video
1/31/2022
Bod Pod

Short video advertising BodPod, which is a body fat measurement, available at Wellness Centers. After a BodPod analysis, an exercise specialist will design a workout program based on what your goals are.

Recommended Content:

Weight Management for Lasting Health

Quality of Life

Video
1/5/2022
Quality of Life

Nearly half of people making resolutions for the new year are resolving to lose weight. While there are several long-term benefits to losing weight - avoiding or managing other chronic health conditions among them - losing just a little bit of weight right now can have immediate effects on your quality of life. From less joint pain to more energy to better sleep, you can start seeing and feeling the benefits of healthy weight loss nearly right away. Visit tricare.mil/weightmanagement to learn more.

Recommended Content:

Weight Management for Lasting Health | Physical Fitness | Nutritional Fitness

Safe and Effective Weight Loss

Video
1/5/2022
Safe and Effective Weight Loss

If you're resolving to lose weight in 2022, make sure to do it safely by avoiding crash and yo-yo diets. Talk to your doctor to make a plan for the safest and most effective way for you to manage a healthy weight in 2022. Visit tricare.mil/weightmanagement for even more tips.

Recommended Content:

Weight Management for Lasting Health | Nutritional Fitness | Physical Fitness

Total Force Fitness Reintroduction

Video
2/17/2021
Total Force Fitness Reintroduction

The Military Health System is reintroducing Total Force Fitness. The Total Force Fitness concept focuses on a service member’s entire health throughout their career, connecting eight dimensions of fitness to optimize health, performance, and readiness holistically.

Recommended Content:

Physical Fitness | Environmental Fitness | Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Nutritional Fitness | Spiritual Fitness | Psychological Fitness | Social Fitness | Financial Fitness | Mobile Apps
<< < 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