Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs
7/1/2015 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- For
peak performance, Airmen should eat healthy and exercise regularly. But
in the quest to gain an "edge," many Airmen resort to dietary
Enter Operation Supplement Safety, or OPSS. This Defense Department
educational campaign, accessible at www.hprc-online.org/opss, educates
the warfighter and healthcare provider on responsible dietary supplement
While some supplements, such as multivitamins, are generally safe, other
supplements can pose a hazard to health and jeopardize careers from
adulterants that cause a positive urine drug screen.
"One third of Airmen report using legal body building supplements and
one in six report weight loss supplements in the past year," said Col.
(Dr.) John Oh, the chief of health promotion for the Air Force Medical
Support Agency. "Body building and weight loss supplements, as well as
sexual enhancement and diabetes supplements, are high-risk categories
that should raise red flags."
Ephedra is a cautionary tale of a problematic dietary supplement.
Heavily marketed as a supplement to help improve athletic performance
and promote weight loss, serious health events, including deaths first
reported in the military, led the Food and Drug Administration to ban
ephedra in 2004.
The OPSS website contains videos, fact sheets, FAQs and briefings to
help Airmen make informed, responsible decisions on supplement use, as
well as an "Ask the Expert" feature in which Airmen can directly pose a
question to a supplement expert.
"The OPSS website is a must-read source for Airmen, commanders, first
shirts, superintendents and their healthcare providers," Oh said.
"People think if a dietary supplement is sold on base, it must be safe,
but that's not necessarily true."
Unlike prescription meds, the FDA does not approve dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness prior to marketing.
"For prescription drugs, the manufacturer must show that the drug works
and is safe before putting it on market," Oh said. "But most supplements
are marketed first, and the burden is on the FDA to prove they are
Since supplements can be adulterated with prescription and illegal
drugs, Airmen may put their careers at risk with a positive drug screen.
Service members who chose to use supplements are encouraged to stick
with brands that have undergone third party certification by independent
companies such as USP, Informed Choice, NSF International and
ConsumerLab.com. Third party certification does not guarantee that the
supplement is safe or effective, but it does validate manufacturing
practices, purity and/or quality, so that what's on the label is
Airmen are encouraged to be strong Wingmen for each other and help spread the word on supplement safety.
"The aim of Operation Supplement Safety is to not stamp out supplement
use," Oh said. "We want Airmen who use supplements to be informed
consumers and choose wisely."
For more information on dietary supplement safety, visit The Human
Performance Resource Center website at www.hprc-online.org. To request
OPSS education materials, military members can contact their local Air
Force health promotion staff. Civilian employees can contact their
local Civilian Health Promotion Services team or visit AFMCwellness.com.
(Air Force Materiel Command Wellness Support Center contributed to this article)