Sustenance and medicine are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Fire arms, alcohol and tobacco are regulated by the National Firearms Act. But, the regulation of the supplement industry has been known to have little oversight.
Members from the 56th Medical Group at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., created the Operation Supplement Safety Group to educate Airmen on the variations of consumable supplements that are readily available.
“Air Force Instruction 40-104 states the use of dietary supplement use shall be permitted,” said Yyolany Caffrey, 56th MDG health promotions coordinator. “However, Aircrew is required to gain approval for dietary supplements use by the flight surgeon. The AFI doesn’t mean the Air Force agrees or disagrees with supplement use. It means Airmen accept the risk involved when using supplements not regulated by any agency. Instead of accepting the risk, we need our Thunderbolts educated about their supplement use. It is also important to consult with your provider if you take medications on a regular basis because supplements can adversely interact with your routine prescriptions.”
The U.S. Air Force created a Human Performance Resource Center website, www.opss.org, to give expert advice on human performance optimization such as supplements. This website is accessible by Thunderbolts, their families and all Department of Defense personnel.
“Thunderbolts are beginning to use supplements on a regular basis,” Caffrey said. “Their knowledge on these products come from reading the recommended dose label or from companies who have no extensive knowledge of the ingredients included in the products. Without gathering the proper information, knowing what really goes into your body is nearly impossible.”
The OPSS website has an ‘ask the expert’ feature, which easily allows Thunderbolts to receive answer to their questions in regards to supplements.
Some of the supplements Thunderbolts use include protein, performance powders, supplement pills and caffeinated energy drinks.
“It’s important for Airmen to understand that common energy drinks are also considered supplements,” Caffrey said. “We are starting to lean toward the misconception that energy drinks give us the extra boost we need to complete a vigorous exercise or help us stay awake and focused on completing a task, but in reality they put more strain on the heart and can lead to heart problems.”
The dangers of consuming supplements can be avoided by using official informational websites to learn appropriate uses and risks. Arming oneself with information is the key to safely using supplements.
“The overall goal of OPSS is to promote supplement awareness and safe use,” said Aaron Anderson, 56th MDG nutrition program manager. “The HPRC website is a helpful tool and Airmen should use it. The OPSS has a team of professionals who are committed to keeping the information up to date. This was designed to provide information to help our Airmen, their families and DOD members make more informed decisions.”