An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

HomeNewsroomNewsArticle Display

Article - Article View

Supplements: Awareness is serious matter

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Some acceptable substances, such as these, can be purchased locally and used instead of those deemed unacceptable or of high risk-low value as defined by Air Force Medical Support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dave Smith)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Some acceptable substances, such as these, can be purchased locally and used instead of those deemed unacceptable or of high risk-low value as defined by Air Force Medical Support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dave Smith)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- Health, fitness and energy are important considerations for all Airmen, however when does pursuing them result in potential and real problems?

Supplements, health foods and energy drinks may be popular and even come with approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but that doesn't ensure compliance with current Air Force Instructions or passing a urinalysis test. There are numerous supplements - and components used in them - which are either banned or not recommended for use by members of the military. Since the responsibility for avoiding non-compliant substances lies solely on the shoulders of each Airman, a little knowledge will go a long way in staying out of trouble.

Vigilance is the operative word. Paying attention to products known to include banned or low value ingredients needs to be part of the regular shopping routine.

"Although supplements are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, it does not mean the products are necessarily safe. Supplements are not inspected or looked into until adverse reactions have been reported on a product," said Tiffany Brunton, health promotion dietician at the Peterson Health and Wellness Center. "The best advice is to seek appropriate guidance from their (health care) provider, or ideally from a registered dietitian, before starting a supplement routine to make themselves aware of the risks or possible interactions."

Products with strong advertising claims such as "alternative to FDA approved drug," or weight loss or muscle gain without changing diet or exercise should draw extra scrutiny, Brunton said. She advised the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database as a source for any government employee to find information on various supplements in regard to health risk rankings, adverse reactions, medication interactions and overall effectiveness.

One example of a product in FDA compliance, but not within Air Force regulation, is the popular Strong & Kind protein bars. The bars are readily available in most area grocery stores and health food shops, but contain hemp seeds - an ingredient banned by AFI 90-507 1.1.6. which reads:

"Studies have shown that products made with hemp seed and hemp seed oil may contain varying levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), an active ingredient of marijuana, which is detectable under the Air Force Drug Testing Program. In order to ensure military readiness, the ingestion of products containing or products derived from hemp seed or hemp seed oil is prohibited."

Ryan Gunther, manager of the Peterson GNC location, said some popular items at his store are weight and mass gain supplements. There are a number of products available to promote weight and mass gain and remain in the high value-low risk parameters as defined by Air Force Medical Support.

"I would suggest probiotics and digestive enzymes. And maybe fish oil," Gunther said. "They help with the repair of muscle tissue to build muscles faster. A lot of times they are more effective than testosterone boosters, especially for people in their 20s."

Gunther further advised Airmen to use caution when using products that might have stimulants in them. Instead of low value-high risk items he recommends alternates like raspberry ketones and garcinia cambogia.

According to the 2011 Health Related Behavior Survey - Active Duty Service Members, nearly 40 percent of personnel reported daily supplement and/or multivitamin use. Among all active- duty personnel participating in the survey about 6 percent reported misuse with steroids and stimulants at about 17 percent and 12 percent respectively, the most commonly misused among prescription drug users.

Even commonly used energy drinks can present risks like increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, anxiety, nervousness, abnormal heart rhythm, sleep disturbance and dependence.

"If you have questions or concerns about a supplement, I suggest asking your doctor or visiting our office before using it," Brunton said. The HAWC can be reached at 556-5787.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui