A look at supplements

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Nicholas Benroth
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
Many Airman are looking for ways to stay fit and reach their max on the physical training test. Some Airmen look towards food to help get the proteins and vitamins to work out and increase their strength.

Some have taken a different approach to this method. They supplement food with pills and powder to cut down on the time it takes to absorb the vitamin they need.

According to the Food and Drug Administration a dietary supplement is a product taken by mouth that contains a "dietary ingredient" intended to supplement the diet. The "dietary ingredients" in these products may include: vitamins, minerals, herbs or other botanicals, amino acids, and substances such as enzymes, organ tissues, glandulars and metabolites.

The idea of taking something to increase your strength or endurance may seem to be the easiest way to go when trying to build muscle or increase your endurance. But what most people don't know is that there can be adverse side effects like allergic reactions or a severe reaction to medications that you may be currently taking.

"There are all kinds of different supplements a person can take," said Kayla Scherf, the Health and Wellness Center dietician. "It's up to you to figure out what is in that supplement and if it's safe to take."

Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, the dietary supplement manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement is safe before it is marketed. FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market.

"Supplements are special when it comes to rules and regulations," said Miss Scherf. "You could be taking a creatine supplement with another supplement and not even realize that the other one has creatine in it."

"This would give that person an increased amount of creatine in their system having an adverse affect," said Miss Scherf.

Because these companies are not required to ensure the safety or consistency of the product they sell, it is up to Airmen to know what they are putting into their bodies and how that can impact their mission performance.

According to a consumer health report published in September 2010, here are some common ingredients in supplements and what is known about them:

-- Aconite Possibly unsafe. The FDA issued a warning to consumers in March 2002. Banned in Germany, Canada, and Switzerland.

-- Kava possibly unsafe. The FDA issued a warning to consumers in March 2002. Banned in Germany, Canada, and Switzerland.

-- Protein is the most widely used nutritional supplement for muscle growth, protein does have studies showing it can help increase muscle volume when used in conjunction with weight training. However, users should be aware that it can put a strain on their kidneys.

-- Creatine has been looked at in organized studies and has shown no benefit in endurance exercises, but has shown an increase in weight lifting abilities. Creatine may affect fluid balance, leading to dehydration, thus placing the user at risk. If Airmen use it, they should hydrate frequently.

"The best thing to do when taking any supplements would be to contact your doctor," said Miss Scherf. "They know what medications you're on and what you can and cannot take."

More information can be found at the Food and Drug Administration's Web site http://www.fda.gov in the nutrition and supplement sections.