A Marine reads the ingredients on the back of a dietary supplement sold in the Marine Corps Main Exchange aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, June 8. News of a supplement containing an illegal drug was passed by commands aboard MCB Camp Lejeune and multiple Marine Corps installations across the country.

Know This Before Supplementing

By Leisha Ferguson, Public Health Educator, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center

Dietary supplements are used by more than half of the adult population in the United States.¹ Supplement usage continues to be a very hot topic in our military community. Whether it’s in the gym while working out or during lunch break with your colleagues; the topic of supplements is bound to be discussed. In support of October’s theme of Women’s Health, I would like to shed some light on supplement safety.

A Marine reads the ingredients on the back of a dietary supplement sold in the Marine Corps Main Exchange aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, June 8. News of a supplement containing an illegal drug was passed by commands aboard MCB Camp Lejeune and multiple Marine Corps installations across the country.
A Marine reads the ingredients on the back of a dietary supplement sold in the Marine Corps Main Exchange aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, June 8. News of a supplement containing an illegal drug was passed by commands aboard MCB Camp Lejeune and multiple Marine Corps installations across the country. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Nikki Phongsisattanak/ Released)

A Marine reads the ingredients on the back of a dietary supplement sold in the Marine Corps Main Exchange aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, June 8. News of a supplement containing an illegal drug was passed by commands aboard MCB Camp Lejeune and multiple Marine Corps installations across the country. (Photo by Lance Cpl. Nikki Phongsisattanak/ Released)

Many women consume dietary supplements for a variety of reasons. Supplements are used with the expectation of enhancing weight loss, optimizing health, preventing illness, increasing energy and sexual enhancement, and to self-treat an illness.  Consumers obtain information on supplements from a variety of sources, such as health professionals and the media.

A dietary supplement is a product intended for ingestion that contains a “dietary ingredient” intended to add further nutritional value to supplement the diet. A “dietary ingredient” may be one, or any combination, of the following substances:²

  • a vitamin
  • a mineral
  • an herb or other botanical
  • an amino acid
  • a dietary substance for use by people to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake
  • a concentrate, metabolite, constituent, or extract

Dietary supplements may be found in many forms, to include pills, capsules, powders, liquids, energy bars, energy drinks, and gels. Supplements do not have to go through the testing as that of prescription medications.  Service members should use caution when consuming supplements and be aware of all listed ingredients in the supplements they chose to consume.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received numerous reports of harm associated with some supplements, including stroke, liver injury, kidney failure, heart palpitations, and death.  Consumers should be aware of these products and learn how to identify and avoid them.³

Some supplements may interfere with the action of prescription or over-the-counter medications you take, increasing their side effect or rendering them ineffective. One should make sure that their health care provider is aware of all supplements consumed.

At Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC), we’re here to help you learn more about the safety and usage of dietary supplements. Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) is a joint initiative between the Human Performance Resource Center (HPRC) and DoD to educate service members, retirees, family members, leaders, healthcare providers, and DoD civilians about dietary supplements and how to choose wisely.

(Graphic courtesy of Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center)
(Graphic courtesy of Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center)

 

Visit the following resources to learn more about safety and usage of dietary supplements you are taking or considering taking:

Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center-Health Promotion

Human Performance Resource Center-Operation Supplement Safety

  1. Bailey RL, et al. Why US Adults Use Dietary Supplements. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;4:1  http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1568520 Accessed September 12, 2016
  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. What is a Dietary Supplement? http://www.fda.gov/AboutFDA/Transparency/Basics/ucm195635.htm Accessed September 13, 2016
  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Beware of Fraudulent Dietary Supplements. http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm246744.htm  Accessed September 13, 2016