Sunday, July 5, 2009

FDA: Unregulated Supplements Pose Health Risk to Unaware Consumers

by Sgt. 1st Class Ron Burke, MND-B PAO

BAGHDAD – Rows of colorfully designed jars and plastic tubs scream “Shock your muscles” and promise “Get ultra-ripped fast” or “Gain 12 pounds in 2 weeks!” At the end of the aisle, slick magazines line the shelves showcasing the newest methods to gain mass or how to push 20 percent more weight instantly when you use their new technique.

What many don’t know about these weight training products that bring in a large amount in sales in the post exchange and online is that many of them are not regulated or tested by the Food and Drug Administration. Manufacturers of dietary supplements are themselves responsible for ensuring and documenting the safety claims of their products.

“The supplements you see on the shelves or online aren’t regulated by the FDA and contain proprietary blends and ingredients that aren’t tested for safety,” said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Callin, the division surgeon for the 1st Cavalry Division at Camp Liberty, Iraq. “Just because they’re on the shelf doesn’t mean they’re safe.”

Recently, the FDA placed a mandatory recall on all Hydroxycut products by Iovate Health Sciences, Inc. Hydroxycut products are dietary supplements that were marketed for weight-loss, to spur water loss, and as an energy enhancer. The FDA received reports of serious health problems indicating potential liver damage, serious enough that one death due to liver failure has been reported.

The FDA has also received 23 reports of serious health problems in people who have used Hydroxycut, ranging from jaundice (the yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes) to elevated liver enzymes. The symptoms of liver injury include jaundice, nausea, vomiting, excessive fatigue, stomach or abdominal pain, brown urine and loss of appetite. Other health problems reported include seizures, cardio-vascular disorders, and rhabdomyolysis, a type of muscle damage that can lead to other serious health problems such as kidney failure.

The FDA has urged consumers to stop using Hydroxycut products in order to avoid any undue risk. The FDA has not determined which ingredients, dosages, or other health-related factors may be associated with risks related to Hydroxycut products.
Callin went on to explain that the claims that these supplements boldly make are not justified and come from lab studies where they take the results out of context. “The lab results, which are statistical numbers, don’t translate into physical change in a person’s body,” he said.

Creatine, (creatine monohydrate) a popular supplement that promises mass gains and large pumps during workouts is another thing that Soldiers need to stay away from in this environment.

“Creatine can cause kidney damage,” said Callin. “It sucks the water from your bloodstream and transports it between your tissues (called edema), making you swell.” If that water isn’t put back in, it could lead to serious heat injuries.
“The last thing we need is to have Soldiers taking supplements that take themselves out of the fight because of extreme heat and dehydration in tough combat conditions,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Rory Malloy, division command sergeant major for the 1st Cavalry Division.

Malloy, who is from Campbellsburg, Ind., stressed eating right, exercising regularly, and watching your calorie intake if you’re overweight and want to slim down. “If you want to gain mass,” added Malloy, “Focus on better physical training, a good nutritional plan, and be committed and realistic because there’s no quick fix.”

So what’s a Soldier to do when he or she wants to supplement their workout? “Everything you need is available in the dining facility for free,” said Callin. “Many of those supplements will simply produce very expensive urine.”

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