Staying safe with supplements
20th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
/ Published July 17, 2018
SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- There are many questions and expectations people have about supplements. Individuals often take supplements to help boost metabolism, testosterone, endurance or for the ability to fight off illness or disease. Sometimes, people search for a supplement to help with a pre-existing medical condition such as blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar. Name your desire and there is sure to be a supplement marketed just for your needs.
There is a false sense of reassurance that we are being healthy, natural or clean, using an “all natural” supplement, rather than taking a prescription medication or focusing on a healthy, well-rounded diet.
With all of the potential side effects of some prescriptions, such as urinary incontinence, potential for increased harm to self or others, seizures and weight gain, it is no wonder we run screaming from some medications. Many of these side effects were determined from studies completed on willing participants.
After extensive research by pharmaceutical companies, they were able to determine the effectiveness of both prescribed medication and over-the-counter medications, as well as the potential for any side effects. Consumers are then provided with a wealth of knowledge related to potential outcomes and any interactions they may have with food or other medications.
When we are given a medication, our providers assess the whole person and our pharmacist ensures the prescription will not interact with other medications you have been prescribed, and notifies the patient of the potential of less than desirable outcomes.
Supplements on the other hand are not typically assessed on human subjects and the consumers take the role of an unsuspecting guinea pig.
Another concern is that the products are not always assessed for quality, purity, potency or accuracy in labeling.
Some companies hire third-party organizations to assess their product line. When you see the symbols for NSF Certified for Sport, Informed Choice, USP or Consumer Lab, this should leave you feeling reassured knowing that these supplements are potentially safer or more effective than others.
Despite these organizations assessing the products for quality, purity, potency and accuracy, they are not assessing health risk, side effects or interactions with medications and supplements that you are currently taking.
If you are currently taking a supplement or are considering one, please become an informed consumer and visit Operation Supplement Safety at www.OPSS.org. OPSS is a Department of Defense dietary supplement resource for the military community, leaders, healthcare providers and DoD civilians. OPSS provides information for safe supplement selection and use, and guidelines to provide you with the best outcomes.
Please, do not stop there.
Tell your provider about the supplements you are taking or any you would like to take so they can document it in your medical records. If you become ill for some reason, the supplement can be ruled out or considered, depending on your situation.