Informed, responsible and safe use of dietary supplements

  • Published
  • By Emily Posadas
  • 52nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron
Are you thinking about using a dietary supplement, or are you currently using dietary supplements? Do you know what a dietary supplement is?

According to the Food and Drug Administration, 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: a vitamin, mineral, herb, amino acid, a dietary substance for use by people to supplement the diet by increasing the total dietary intake or a concentrate, metabolite, constituent or extract."

Supplements can be any number of items ranging from those labeled to improve performance, gain or lose weight, or supplement the diet with any number of vitamins or minerals. They can be found in tablet form, softgels, capsules, liquids or powders.

If you do plan on taking dietary supplements or are currently taking dietary supplements, there are a few things to consider.

First, be aware that dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA. This means consumers who purchase a supplement thinking it is going to help them gain muscle mass, burn fat, or otherwise enhance their health or appearance could turn out to contain dangerous substances.

Second, due to lack of regulation, supplement manufacturers can make any and all claims on the packaging of supplements. There is no way to tell whether or not those claims are true.

Third, due to lack of regulation on dietary supplements, a person taking a supplement may be ingesting substances that may have unfavorable results on U.S. Air Force drug tests.

Operation Supplement Safety is a joint initiative between the Human Performance Resource Center and the Department of Defense aimed at educating service members on safe supplement use. Any supplement that rates an eight or above on the OPSS website is likely safe to use.

"When choosing to take dietary supplements, ensure you are making the wisest decision possible," said U.S. Air Force Col. Joe McFall, 52d Fighter Wing commander. "Do some research on the supplement you are taking, consult a registered dietitian, and go to the Operation Supplement Safety website to find out how your supplement rates."

If you have any questions on dietary supplements, or want more information on the Operation Supplement Safety initiative, please call Health Promotions at 452-7385 or visit

"Ensuring our Airmen are in top shape is a priority," McFall said. "Airmen should make informed, responsible decisions regarding dietary supplements so we don't have any adverse events on the ground, in the air or at home."

Source: FDA, 2014.