HPWG 'supplements' Airmen's dietary knowledge

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kris Levasseur
  • 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
On shelves in stores around the world and available online everywhere, there are hundreds of thousands of dietary supplements, energy boosters and fat-loss pills marketed to the public to have limitless potential health benefits; however, if it is too good to be true, then it probably is.

Unfortunately for Airmen, there is no such thing as a "magic" pill. While some supplements, such as multivitamins, are generally safe, other supplements can be dangerous to one's health and jeopardize careers from adulterants that cause a positive drug screen. However, Ramstein Airmen have the 86th Airlift Wing Human Performance Working Group.

According to 1st Lt. Lindsey Leitz, 86th Aerospace Medicine Squadron nutrition program manager and chairperson of the HPWG, the HPWG was formed to optimize a supportive nutritional environment and increase members' knowledge on the proper use and safety of dietary supplements.

"The HPWG is actually two working groups combined into one: the Nutritional Environment Working Group and the Operation Supplement Safety Working Group," said Leitz. "OPSS is a DOD-wide educational initiative from the Human Performance Resource Center.  Its purpose is to increase awareness among active-duty service members about dietary supplements and to provide tools to be 'smart' supplement users.  OPSS is designed to help those taking dietary supplements to use them as safely as possible."

OPSS is accessible at www.hprc-online.org/opss and educates the warfighter and healthcare provider on responsible dietary supplement use. The OPSS website contains videos, fact sheets, FAQs and briefings to help Airmen make informed, responsible decisions on supplement use, as well as an "Ask the Expert" feature through which Airmen can directly pose a question to a supplement expert.

According to the OPSS site, service members who choose to use supplements are encouraged to stick with brands that have undergone third-party certification by independent companies such as USP, Informed Choice, National Science Foundation International and ConsumerLab.com. Third-party certification does not guarantee that the supplement is safe or effective, but does validate manufacturing practices, purity, and/or quality, so that what's on the label is accurate.

Leitz added that the HPWG intends to increase the availability of healthy foods and nutrition supplement information as well as to make choosing healthy meals the preferred choice.

"The HPWG has just been newly formed at Ramstein and has only had its initial meetings," said Leitz. "However, we are passionate about our mission. It would be great if OPSS was a 'household name.' If active-duty members knew what OPSS was, what it stood for, and used it frequently, then we would have accomplished our mission.

"Please make sure you are using reliable resources when making decisions about supplements," Leitz added. "You cannot trust the salesperson or the label when making these health choices."

To find out what supplements are safe, visit the Human Performance Resource Center's website at www.hprc-online.org. For advice on better eating habits, call Ramstein Health Promotions at 480-4292.