Operation Supplement Safety is a Department of Defense educational program under the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences to increase awareness within the DOD community. It provides information about how to evaluate dietary supplements, by outlining the potential red flags and health risks that may be associated with them.
OPSS, an enduring educational program, provides military members and their families, healthcare providers, and leaders, up-to-date information about DS to promote human performance optimization.
“Dietary supplements refer to any vitamin, mineral, botanical, amino acid or other substance taken by mouth and labeled on the front of the product stating it’s a dietary supplement,” said Deborah Robinson, 56th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion dietitian.
OPSS hosts a website, https://www.opss.org, which provides a DOD prohibited ingredients list to help military members be aware of ingredients to avoid when considering DS products. The OPSS website also hosts a high-risk supplement list identifying DS products that may be a potential risk to a service member’s health or career.
“Supplements are buyers beware,” said Yyolany Caffrey, 56th OMRS health promotion coordinator. “It’s up to the consumers to do the research on their own. The OPSS website provides evidence-based research and they’re not trying to sell us anything.”
An individual may use an interactive supplement scorecard to assess their own supplement for safety. Also, questions sent through the ‘Ask the Expert’ feature provides more information about supplement ingredients and product benefits or adverse effects.
“Dietary supplements don’t have to be tested for safety or effectiveness before they’re put on the market,” said Robinson. “One important point is to select products that have third-party certification seals. The manufacturer sends the ingredients to an independent organization that tests the purity and quality of the product.”
The concentration focus of OPSS is based on the idea of eating ‘real food.’ Dietary supplements are not a substitute for good eating, said Robinson. If requested, the health promotion team can provide on-site education about DS to units on base.
“Safety is number one,” said Robinson. “A 2017 survey stated that 66 percent of Air Force members use dietary supplements. We have a high usage and some of those products can contain illegal or dangerous ingredients. We want to make sure that Airmen have the tools they need to do their research first and evaluate why they’re taking it.”
More information on dietary supplements can be found on the OPSS website at https://www.opss.org or by contacting Deborah Robinson at 623-856-4552. OPSS is a program under the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.