Dietary supplements, fact vs. fiction

The supplement business is a multi-billion dollar industry that is not currently 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. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Daniel Brosam)

The supplement business is a multi-billion dollar industry that is not currently 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. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Daniel Brosam)

Supplements may lack nutrients a body needs that it can only get through eating certain foods. Individuals who are taking supplements may in fact not need what they are taking and what they are taking could produce adverse effects. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Daniel Brosam)

Supplements may lack nutrients a body needs that it can only get through eating certain foods. Individuals who are taking supplements may in fact not need what they are taking and what they are taking could produce adverse effects. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Airman 1st Class Daniel Brosam)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- The supplement business is a multi-billion dollar industry that is not currently regulated like conventional food and drug products by the Food and Drug Administration.

Thirty-seven percent of Air Force personnel are currently using supplements as part of a daily morning routine or as part of a workout plan, according to Air Force Medical Operations Agency. The question is, are Airmen doing enough research to validate the need for supplements?

According to fda.gov, manufacturers and distributors of dietary supplements and ingredients are solely responsible for evaluating the safety and labeling of their products before marketing to ensure they meet all the requirements of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, meaning there is no regulation of the supplement industry.

Kirk Clark, 341st Medical Group health promotions coordinator, said the main concern is individuals who are taking supplements may in fact not need what they are taking and that what they are taking could produce adverse effects.

“Big things you see in supplements is they can have interactions with drugs that are prescribed by physicians,” Clark said. “They can also certainly lead to kidney dysfunction as your kidneys now have to filter more.”

Different supplements advertise outcomes such as weight gain or loss, depending on the results the distributor is trying to sell. Not researching a supplement, or using it incorrectly, may give the user negative results.

The use of supplements is designed to add further nutritional value to the diet, not act as a meal replacement. Matt Lewis, 341st MDG registered dietitian, said people will often spend unnecessary money on a pre and post-workout shake when they could in fact be eating a meal before and after to obtain the same or better results.

“If you consume one cup of broccoli you would probably obtain 100 percent of your vitamin C and 10 percent of your vitamin A for your recommended daily allowance,” Lewis said. “This means you would not need those vitamins from supplements that you’re taking. You can get everything you need from the intake of a healthy diet.”

Lewis also added that supplements may be lacking other nutrients a body needs that it can only get through eating certain foods.

Both Lewis and Clark have seen clients who, for various training reasons, have been encouraged to use supplements as part of their diet due to the amount of energy, vitamins and nutrients their bodies need. The problem occurs when someone assumes that because a dietary regiment works for one person, it will work for all.

Clark has two questions he advises people to ask themselves before assuming that supplements is the correct answer.

“You need to ask yourself what your end goal is and why you need it,” Clark said. “If you can’t answer the question ‘why?’ without an emotional attachment, then you may not need the supplement.”

The two are not attempting to dissuade consumers from using supplements, only encouraging thorough research before spending money on something the body may be able to produce naturally through food or that a body may not actually need.

“It is the responsibility of the consumer to decide whether or not a supplement should be used and to know that there may be some negative side effects,” Lewis said.

For more information on health and dietary needs, Lewis and Clark can be contacted at 731-4292.

Both also encourage visiting www.hprc-online.org/dietary-supplements/opss to learn more about supplements.
USAF Comments Policy
If you wish to comment, use the text box below. AF reserves the right to modify this policy at any time.

This is a moderated forum. That means all comments will be reviewed before posting. In addition, we expect that participants will treat each other, as well as our agency and our employees, with respect. We will not post comments that contain abusive or vulgar language, spam, hate speech, personal attacks, violate EEO policy, are offensive to other or similar content. We will not post comments that are spam, are clearly "off topic", promote services or products, infringe copyright protected material, or contain any links that don't contribute to the discussion. Comments that make unsupported accusations will also not be posted. The AF and the AF alone will make a determination as to which comments will be posted. Any references to commercial entities, products, services, or other non-governmental organizations or individuals that remain on the site are provided solely for the information of individuals using this page. These references are not intended to reflect the opinion of the AF, DoD, the United States, or its officers or employees concerning the significance, priority, or importance to be given the referenced entity, product, service, or organization. Such references are not an official or personal endorsement of any product, person, or service, and may not be quoted or reproduced for the purpose of stating or implying AF endorsement or approval of any product, person, or service.

Any comments that report criminal activity including: suicidal behaviour or sexual assault will be reported to appropriate authorities including OSI. This forum is not:

  • This forum is not to be used to report criminal activity. If you have information for law enforcement, please contact OSI or your local police agency.
  • Do not submit unsolicited proposals, or other business ideas or inquiries to this forum. This site is not to be used for contracting or commercial business.
  • This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

AF does not guarantee or warrant that any information posted by individuals on this forum is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. AF may not be able to verify, does not warrant or guarantee, and assumes no liability for anything posted on this website by any other person. AF does not endorse, support or otherwise promote any private or commercial entity or the information, products or services contained on those websites that may be reached through links on our website.

Members of the media are asked to send questions to the public affairs through their normal channels and to refrain from submitting questions here as comments. Reporter questions will not be posted. We recognize that the Web is a 24/7 medium, and your comments are welcome at any time. However, given the need to manage federal resources, moderating and posting of comments will occur during regular business hours Monday through Friday. Comments submitted after hours or on weekends will be read and posted as early as possible; in most cases, this means the next business day.

For the benefit of robust discussion, we ask that comments remain "on-topic." This means that comments will be posted only as it relates to the topic that is being discussed within the blog post. The views expressed on the site by non-federal commentators do not necessarily reflect the official views of the AF or the Federal Government.

To protect your own privacy and the privacy of others, please do not include personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, DoD ID number, OSI Case number, phone numbers or email addresses in the body of your comment. If you do voluntarily include personally identifiable information in your comment, such as your name, that comment may or may not be posted on the page. If your comment is posted, your name will not be redacted or removed. In no circumstances will comments be posted that contain Social Security numbers, DoD ID numbers, OSI case numbers, addresses, email address or phone numbers. The default for the posting of comments is "anonymous", but if you opt not to, any information, including your login name, may be displayed on our site.

Thank you for taking the time to read this comment policy. We encourage your participation in our discussion and look forward to an active exchange of ideas.