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Implementing supplement safety

Dietary Supplements (U.S. Air Force graphic)

Dietary Supplements (U.S. Air Force graphic)


With the demands of a busy lifestyle, there are times when proper nutrition is unintentionally neglected.

Service members at times choose to replace poor dietary habits or increase an already healthy lifestyle with supplements. Though supplements are legal, service members should educate themselves on which are and are not approved.

“Supplements aren’t food and they’re not drugs, so this is a gray area,” said Jill Hinsley, the 19th Aerospace Medicine Squadron registered dietician. “Since the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate supplements, the responsibility falls on the consumer to determine whether it is safe for use.”

The DOD does not maintain a list of dietary supplements or supplement ingredients that are banned. If the FDA or the Drug Enforcement Administration hasn’t declared an ingredient or dietary supplement product illegal, then the DOD does not consider it to be illegal.

Luckily, there is an initiative in place to aid with making an informed decision about choosing a supplement.

“Operation Supplement Safety is a joint initiative with the Human Performance Resource Center and DoD to provide U.S. service members with supplement safety information,” Hinsley said.

Although there isn’t an official list of banned supplements, below is a list of substances service members cannot legally consume.

  • Anything on the DEA’s controlled substance list such as amphetamines or anabolic steroids,

  • Any substance the FDA has declared illegal for use in dietary supplements such as ephedrine alkaloids, DMAA, DMBA and BMPEA,

  • Any prescription drug without a current prescription, and

  • Salvia divinorum

For Airmen looking to add supplements to their diet, it’s highly recommended to conduct research.

“People have to do their research since the industry is so loosely regulated,” Hinsley said. “Especially, if they’re entertaining using some of the higher risk supplements.”

To learn more about supplements, visit

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