The Department of Justice entered into a comprehensive agreement with GNC, a widely-known distributor of dietary supplements, seeking to reform the practice and usage of supplements. The announcement came long-overdue, as an investigation concluded that distributors were failing to ensure the safety and lawfulness of the products on their shelves.
Wendi Knowles, Health Promotion Nutrition Program Manager, explained that currently, there are no DOD regulations on supplements, products which are consumed by many.
“If you are a flier or in the Personnel Reliability Program (PRP), you have to go through your primary care physician to be on anything – even vitamins,” she said. “Other than that, there are no regulations saying you can’t take supplements.”
The Department of Defense program, Operation Supplement Safety (OPSS), is a joint initiative between the Human Performance Resource Center and the DOD to educate service members, leaders, health care providers, and DOD civilian employees about dietary supplements and how to choose supplements wisely.
The whole intention of the program is to provide awareness and better educate those that use supplements. OPSS is a benefit, Ms. Knowles said, that most people are not aware of. Registering an account with a government email address allows an individual to research brand name products, their ingredients, ratings and comments for free.
“When there are so many ingredients in a product,” Ms. Knowles explained, “you don’t know for sure how well the ingredients will interact with each other.” If you choose to use supplements, products with less than five combined ingredients are recommended. OPSS allows you to see where your products ranks for safety or if they are considered high-risk.
A large percentage of people take supplements daily. For Airmen in particular, Ms. Knowles said, the two biggest reasons they take supplements are for weight loss and muscle building. The two most dangerous? Weight loss and muscle building. OPSS is tailored to Airmen, so that they’re able to reference the database to look at brand name supplements and check all of the information associated.
In her role with Health Promotion, Ms. Knowles covers supplement safety and information in nearly every course she offers. Part of her instruction includes knowing which products to look for and avoid on labels, as well as explaining how to access and look up products and how they rank.
Apps have also been created in efforts to increase and encourage wise supplement usage. Besides the convenience of having the resource on your phone or tablet, a noteworthy feature includes the ability to scan a product’s barcode and be advised immediately if the product is on the High Risk List.
GNC came to an agreement with the government to enhance precautionary steps in dietary supplement safety. Operation Supplement Safety, its resources and the measures taken through Health Promotion are all tools available to help increase the education and awareness of what you’re putting into your body. Taking ownership of your body and what you put into it, Ms. Knowles said, is critical.
As a result of the settlement GNC will be more of a third party tester, similar to the United States Pharmacopeia (USP), and will be held responsible for purchasing and stocking safer products on their shelves. A USP certified product for instance, will have its label verified, which tells the consumer that the product does not contain harmful levels of specified contaminants and has been made through safe and controlled manufacturing practices according to the FDA and USP guidelines.
“I think there’s been a big misconception that since there’s a GNC on every military installation, that the contents and products are safe,” Ms. Knowles said. “I’m very glad they’re taking the safety steps now. It’s important. Don’t take a risk on your career and take care of your body, because you only get one.”http://www.tinker.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/6555/Article/1082004/operation-supplement-safety-choose-dietary-supplements-wisely.aspx