Wrap up Nat'l Nutrition Month with supplement safety

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Joseph Doyle
  • 81st Nutritional Medicine Flight
Did you know dietary supplements do not need approval from the Food and Drug Administration before they are sold to the public? That’s right, dietary supplements are not subjected to the risk and safety regulations of the FDA. In fact, the FDA does not even see, look at, or know about the existence of a dietary supplement product until a problem is brought to their attention. So how do you know if a dietary supplement is safe to take? 

The Basics on dietary supplements:

A dietary supplement, as defined by Congress in 1994, is a product that:

  • Is intended to supplement the diet

  • Contains one or more dietary ingredients (including vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, concentrates, metabolites, and constituents) or their constituents

  • Is intended to be taken by mouth as a pill, capsule, tablet, soft gel, gel cap, liquid, powder or bar

  • Is labeled on the front panel as being a dietary supplement

People commonly use dietary supplements for a variety of reasons to include: replenishing the body’s vitamin and mineral supplies, enhance performance, or to aide in weight loss or muscle gain. However, despite the lack of federal regulation regarding the safety and efficacy of dietary supplements, the Defense Department does not maintain a list of banned or approved supplements.

What to look for when choosing a safe dietary supplement to take:


Look for a third-party seal. Before purchasing your next dietary supplement, look on the product’s label for one of the third-party seals such as U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), Informed-Choice, HFL Sport Science, NSF International (NSF), ConsumerLab.com (CL), and Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG). These organizations test and enforce a set of standards for the identity, strength, quality, and purity of products to include dietary supplements. Consumers can be a little more confident that products displaying one of these seals contain the ingredients the label says it does, and does not contain harmful contaminants.

Conduct your own research starting with Operation Supplement Safety, a joint initiative between the Human Performance Resource Center and the DOD to educate service members and their families about dietary supplements and how to choose them wisely. Explore the OPSS website for expert information on dietary supplements. See how your supplement rates, find out if your dietary supplement is clean, or review the high-risk supplement list to help you navigate through this multi-billion dollar industry.

Remember, just because a dietary supplement is being sold doesn’t mean that it’s safe or effective. Some supplements may interact with medications causing serious, sometimes fatal, side effects. Always do your homework before using a dietary supplement, and be sure to speak with your health care provider or your local military treatment facility's registered dietitian before taking a dietary supplement.

Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks or non-government entities does not constitute endorsement by the 81st Training Wing, HQ Air Education & Training Command, the United States Air Force, or the Department of Defense, of the external website, or the information, products or services contained therein.