It’s impossible to turn on the television, listen to music or read online publications, without happening upon an ad for some kind of dietary supplement. Even a trip to the exchange or commissary offers supplement options, including full-fledged GNC stores operating on many military installations.
And it’s not like we just have one or two options. There are hundreds if not thousands of supplements to choose from. Some promise help with weight loss, others with building muscle mass. There are supplements for better sleep, better digestion, stress relief, bone and heart health, and even better sex.
Given all the promises that these products have to offer, it is understandable why so many service members would turn to supplements. Long hours, expectations for physical and mental endurance, and competition for promotion and awards pushes many to consider any option for even a small competitive edge.
But how can a service member be sure that the supplements they are taking are safe?
And how can service members ensure that the supplements they are taking don’t contain any one of a number of restricted substances banned by military guidelines and tested for in routine urinalyses?
The common sense answer is, talk to your doctor and do your research before buying and taking any dietary supplement.
Many of us will search of any number of supplement information online before talking with our doctors. Have you searched online for this information? Try it now. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Chance are, any online search produces hundreds and hundreds of pages, most touting the benefits of said supplement. Before and after pictures offer proof of a supplement’s effectiveness and countless endorsements make it appear that you’ve found the miracle pill that will make you run faster, grow stronger or stay sharp for hours on end.
Should you trust these claims? How much is marketing fluff designed to make you spend your money on a magical pill?
You might not know it, but there is a trusted source you can use to find out more about the supplements you are taking and how to use them both effectively and safely. It’s called: Operation Supplement Safety.
After several instances of harmful supplements being sold on military installations, the Assistant Secretary for Health Affairs put out a request for the creation of a dedicated resource for members of the DoD community. In 2012 Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS) was born.
OPSS was created by the Consortium for Health and Military Performance (CHAMP), a Defense Center of Excellence department at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences. Its mission is to both educate and protect members of the DoD community by providing “evidence-based, up-to-date information on dietary supplements.”
And its efforts to promote awareness and safety are further enhanced by its industry partnerships with agencies like the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
As part of OPSS’s ongoing efforts and community partnerships, the supplements sold in commissaries and exchanges must be vetted against a list of supplements and ingredients included on the DoD’s list of banned or prohibited substances.
This means that if you buy on-post or online through the exchange, you can trust the products you are buying.
Additionally, the OPSS website is a treasure trove of information on how to use supplements safely and effectively. For example, want to know how to safely use caffeine to help “boost your mental and physical performance?” Check out this infographic created by OPSS.
Want to check the ingredients of your supplements against the banned ingredient list? Here’s a chart that lists all of these substances and the dangers associated with them.
We still live in a time of buyer beware, but it’s nice to know that when it comes to our health, there is one place we can trust to get the information we need.