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Get to know your dietary supplements

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- What is a dietary supplement? A supplement is a product intended to supplement the diet and contains one or more of the following ingredients: macronutrients, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs or other botanicals and "other" dietary substances.  It is intended to be taken by mouth in several forms such as a capsule, powder, softgel, gelcap, tablet, liquid, etc.  It is not represented for use as conventional food and is labeled as a dietary supplement.  Although the Food and Drug Administration regulates supplements by holding manufacturers accountable to a certain extent, it is important that you as a consumer are informed on what to look for in a supplement. 

1. Beware of tainted supplements - dietary supplements with hidden drugs and chemicals.  Potentially dangerous ingredients include:  approved prescription drug ingredients and their analogs, drugs banned by the FDA for safety reasons, controlled substances (anabolic steroids, stimulant diet drugs) and untested or unstudied new active drug ingredients.

2. High-risk category products - bodybuilding products, sexual enhancement products, weight-loss products, diabetes products

3. Claims on labels such as:
- "do not take if you have any medical condition, if you are taking any prescription medications, or if you are pregnant"
- "may cause a positive result in a performance-enhancing drug test"
- An alternative to (or having similar effects to) an FDA-approved drug...
- Claims curing a wide range of unrelated diseases (cancer, AIDS, diabetes)

4. Labels missing the statement, "These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease."

5. Labels that have text in a foreign language, directions or warnings that resemble FDA-approved drugs, claims that it is as effective as FDA-approved drug, inadequate or absent safety warnings or black box warning

6. For a list of questions to ask yourself prior to taking supplement go to: http://hprc-online.org/dietary-supplements/files/red-flags

Always use common sense when taking a supplement.  Use skill, disciplined physical training, personal effort and good nutrition to reach your full potential.  Dietary supplements alone will not help you reach your goals. 

For more information regarding the Department of Defense Operational Supplement Safety program go to http://hprc-online.org/dietary-supplements/opss.  

Information courtesy of Human Performance Resource Center at  http://hprc-online.org/dietary-supplements/opss.
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