MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --
Military readiness has been defined by the ability of a military unit to accomplish its assigned mission.
The Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs office states Airmen should eat healthy and exercise regularly to maintain peak performance, although many Airmen resort to dietary supplements.
Operation Supplement Safety is a joint educational campaign between the Human Performance Resource Center and the Department of Defense that educates the warfighter and healthcare provider on responsible dietary supplement use.
While some supplements such as multivitamins are generally safe, other supplements can pose a hazard to health and jeopardize careers from ingredients that cause a positive urine drug screen.
"One third of Airmen report using legal body building supplements and one in six report weight loss supplements in the past year," said Col. (Dr.) John Oh, the chief of health promotion for the Air Force Medical Support Agency. "Body building and weight loss supplements, as well as sexual enhancement and diabetes supplements, are high-risk categories that should raise red flags."
Ephedra is a cautionary tale of a problematic dietary supplement. Heavily marketed as a supplement to help improve athletic performance and promote weight loss, serious health events, including deaths first reported in the military, led the Food and Drug Administration to ban ephedra in 2004.
The OPSS website contains videos, fact sheets, FAQs and briefings to help Airmen make informed, responsible decisions on supplement use, as well as an "Ask the Expert" feature in which Airmen can directly pose a question to a supplement expert.
"The OPSS website is a must read source for Airmen, commanders, first shirts, superintendents and their healthcare providers," Oh said. "People think if a dietary supplement is sold on base, it must be safe, but that's not necessarily true."
Unlike prescription meds, the FDA does not approve dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness prior to marketing.
"For prescription drugs, the manufacturer must show that the drug works and is safe before putting it on market," Oh said. "But most supplements are marketed first, and the burden is on the FDA to prove they are unsafe."
Since supplements may contain certain prescription and illegal drugs, Airmen may put their careers at risk with a positive drug screen. Service members who choose to use supplements are encouraged to stick with brands that have undergone third party certification by independent companies such as USP, Informed Choice, NSF International and ConsumerLab.com. Third party certification does not guarantee that the supplement is safe or effective, but does validate manufacturing practices, purity, and/or quality for accurate labels.
Airmen are encouraged to be strong Wingmen for each other and help spread the word on supplement safety.
"The aim of Operation Supplement Safety is to not stamp out supplement use," Oh said. "We want Airmen who use supplements to be informed consumers and choose wisely."
For more information on supplements, visit www.hprc-online.org/opss.