Dietary supplements, fact vs. fiction

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Daniel Brosam
  • 341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
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, 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 to learn more about supplements.