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Be smart, safe...Know your supplements

Between 2008 and 2011 the Federal Drug Administration received 6,307 dietary supplement adverse event reports, including 92 reported deaths.  People are encouraged to report an adverse event to their Primary Care Manager, the Health Promotions Office or through the Operation Supplement Safety website under the section natural medicine. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

Between 2008 and 2011 the Federal Drug Administration received 6,307 dietary supplement adverse event reports, including 92 reported deaths. People are encouraged to report an adverse event to their Primary Care Manager, the Health Promotions Office or through the Operation Supplement Safety website under the section natural medicine. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Operation Supplement Safety is a joint initiative program between the Department of Defense and the Human Performance Resource Center to educate and inform service members, retirees, their families, leaders and healthcare providers on responsible dietary supplement use.

A supplement is more than just a diet pill, weight-loss pill, powder, drink, capsule, bar or spray. A supplement is any product containing one or more dietary ingredients intended to supplement the diet.

"Many times we see people come in and start taking a supplement without researching the product," said Alyson Kresser, 92nd Aerospace Medical Squadron dietitian. "If they want to take any kind of supplement, we're here to help them make sure it's safe."

The Food and Drug Administration does not approve dietary supplements for safety and effectiveness, but they do suggest that if anyone uses supplements to stick with brands that have undergone third party certification such as: United States Pharmacopeia, Informed Choice, National Sanitation Foundation International or ConsumerLab.com. The third party certification does not guarantee a supplement is safe or effective, but they do validate the manufacturing practices, purity and quality of the product.

"Sometimes people look at protein powders and pre-workouts as supplements," said Will Saultes 92nd AMS health promotion program coordinator. "But, supplements are also sports drinks, energy drinks and multi-vitamins. Basically, supplements are anything that you're adding into your natural diet."

The OPSS program encourages people to report adverse events of supplements.

"If they do experience an adverse event, they can report it through their Primary Care Manager, through us at the Health Promotions Office or even through the OPSS website under natural medicine," Saultes said.

The website contains multiple resources to include information sheets, videos, frequently asked questions, ask the expert section, a high-risk supplement list and a natural medicines comprehensive database. 

"The important piece to take away from OPSS is to use caution and be a well-informed consumer when using supplements," Saultes said.

For more information on Operation Supplement Safety, contact the Health Promotions Office at (509) 247-5590 or visit the OPSS website at http://hprc-online.org/dietary-supplements/opss