July 11, 2014, MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. – Despite growing popularity among military members, many dietary supplements on the market are tainted and unsafe, Lauren King, Semper Fit dietitian, told a crowd of Marines and civilians at the Barber Physical Activity Center on June 2. Dangerous dietary products can be difficult to spot because, unlike prescription drugs or food supplements, they are not FDA regulated.
To help people be more informed consumers, King hosted “Ripped or Ripped Off,” a dietary supplement workshop that debunked false nutrition claims, revealed safety red flags and offered healthier options that cost less but yield greater results. The workshop is part of Operation Supplement Safety, a Department of Defense educational initiative.
Although supplements claim to be nutrient-packed, King said, people will be surprised at how they stand up to standard fare at a grocery store.
“It’s always better to use food because supplements aren’t as nutritionally complete as food,” King said. “For example, you may think you’re getting the full nutrition of an orange by taking a Vitamin C supplement, but studies have shown that actual fruit has more Vitamin C and other nutrients.”
Additionally, for fitness buffs who prefer beverages, King demonstrated a side-to-side comparison to food. Branched-chain amino acids are essential nutrients that the body obtains from proteins found in food, especially meat and dairy products. Athletes use these amino acids to improve workout performance and reduce protein and muscle breakdown during rigorous exercise. One scoop of whey protein powder, a popular protein supplement, has less BCAA than one can of tuna or a cup of cottage cheese.
King added that food typically offers a better bang for one’s health buck.
However, if people are looking for the convenience, King said, it’s important to chose wisely, which means knowing how to spot red flags.
Products with warning labels are a red flag, because the ingredients pose a potential health risk. Also, King said, be wary of supplements with “proprietary blends” listed as one of the ingredients.
“Manufactures can hide harmful and, at times, illegal ingredients under the [umbrella of] proprietary blends,” King said.
Consumers were also advised to buy products in an actual store, rather than shopping online. This helps buyers avoid dangerous products like Hydroxycut and Tryptophan, which were both banned and pulled off shelves because of incidences of serious injury and even death.
Although supplements are not FDA regulated, some will have third-party evaluation seals on the labels, which ensure the products purity, potency and body absorption. King said these labels, including Informed Choice, Banned Substances Control Group, Consumer Lab, United States Pharmacopeia and the National Sanitation Foundation, more commonly known as NSF, are an indicator that the product safer, because it’s been through testing.
Once the FDA receives numerous reports of harm associated with the use of certain products, they will be banned. However, King said, SemperFit’s goal is help Marines and others be proactive and safe.
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Do Your Homework
Should I buy this supplement? Ask these questions and mark “1” for yes and “0” for no.
Are any certification seals on the label? Yes/No
Are there fewer than five ingredients? (Except gelatin, color additives and dyes) Yes/No
No ingredients listed as “blends,” “proprietary blends” or delivery systems on the label? Yes/No
Can you pronounce the names of all the ingredients? Yes/No
No caffeine or caffeine limited to no more than 200 mg serving per day? Yes/No
No promise of a “quick fix” Yes/No
Are all Daily Values less than 200 percent? (except fish oil and glucosamine) Yes/No
If the total score is greater than four, OK. If the score is less than four, then it’s a “no go” or get more information.
‘Ripped of Ripped Off’ Workshop Dates:
• Aug. 6 at 11:30 a.m.
• Sept. 3 at 11:30 a.m.
Classes are held at Barber Physical Activity Center’s health promotion classroom. To register, call 703-784-2869.