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The Truth about Supplement Use among the Armed Forces

In 1997, the National Defense Council Foundation found that the federal government could save up to $6.3 billion annually by increasing the health of active and retired military personnel through an anti-aging program—one that includes the use of vitamin supplementation. That report clashed with a recent Stars and Stripes article cautioning solders against the use of nutritional supplements.

In a series sponsored by the Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine, soldiers at Caserma Ederle were told by Mike Perko, Ph.D., professor at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro Department of Public Health Education, that while the Army directs soldiers to take supplements, “My advice is that you don’t need them.” While Dr. Perko acknowledged that supplements do work, he said that the supplement industry is largely unregulated, and repeated the oft-quoted falsehood that the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994—commonly referred to as DSHEA—directed the FDA to stay away from regulating supplements.

There have been over 200,000 published articles (which can be found in PubMed at the National Library of Medicine) documenting the efficacy of supplements, and the research in dietary supplements doubles every year. For six decades, physicians have used dietary supplements to prevent and treat disease in this country and around the world. The military’s own research indicates the cost savings of the use of dietary supplements among our military.

Our soldiers deserve the very best healthcare, and supplementation helps preserve their health. It is disappointing that the anti-supplement message, which has no scientific basis, is being directed at our armed forces. The FDA has the authority and responsibility to regulate dietary supplements. Additionally, the industry has implemented programs that include Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification by the Natural Products Association and the National Safety Foundation to secure the quality of consumer supplements.

AAHF is working to support our troops in two important ways. First, it has been our mission to ensure the right of practitioners to reccomend dietary supplements in their clinical practice. Equally important is the instrumental role AAHF is playing in making hyperbaric oxygen therapy the standard of care for our veterans returning from Iraq with Traumatic Brain Injury.

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