Some dietary supplements on the market can contain unsafe ingredients and might even contain ingredients not listed on the label. If you are currently using or considering using a dietary supplement, ask yourself these questions to minimize your risk of consuming potentially harmful products.

Red FlagIs it a high-risk dietary supplement? High-risk product categories include:

  • Bodybuilding
  • Weight loss
  • Sexual enhancement

Red FlagIs the label missing a third-party certification/verification label? Examples are:

  • Banned Substances Control Group (BSCG)
  • Informed-Sport (or Informed-Choice), LGC Group
  • NSF International
  • United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP)
Logos for Banned Substances Control Group, Informed-Sport.com, NSF Certified Sport, USP Dietary Supplement Verified

Red FlagDoes the label or advertisement:

  • Claim to prevent or cure a wide range of unrelated diseases (e.g., cancer, AIDS, and diabetes) or conditions (e.g. pain and concussions), or claim to enhance cognitive (mental) abilities?
  • Market the product with personal testimonials or use phrases such as “newest scientific breakthrough,” “secret formula,” “money back guarantee”?
  • Promise a “quick fix” (for example, lose 5 pounds in two days, cure impotency in 2 weeks, etc.)?
  • Indicate the product is approved by a government agency or professional organization, such as FDA, DoD, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), or U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA)? None of these “approve” dietary supplements.
  • Offer “free trials”? After a certain time period, often insufficient to evaluate a product, you can be charged and subscribed to a monthly bottle renewal.
  • Have text in a foreign language or have any misspelled words?
  • Lack FDA’s required statement: “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

Red FlagDoes the supplement’s product label or website have statements such as the claims below?

These claims often indicate the supplement might contain unapproved dietary ingredients, prescription drug analogs, and/or ingredients not on the Supplements Facts panel.

  • An alternative to (or claiming to have similar effects to) an FDA-approved drug—e.g., “All natural alternative to XYZ.”
  • “Legal steroids” or “Legal prohormones.”
  • “Might cause a positive result in a drug test.”
  • “Natural cure.”
  • “For research purposes only.”

Red FlagDid you receive solicitations (emails) offering products in the high-risk product categories?

Red FlagIs the product on the OPSS High-Risk Supplement List or FDA’s Tainted Supplements page?

These products have been found to contain ingredients that can put your performance and/or career at risk.

Red FlagDoes the product contain ingredients on the WADA Prohibited list or any "ingredients" prohibited by DoD?

Red FlagIs the product rated 7 or lower by Natural Medicines?

Natural Medicines rates commercial products on a scale of 1–10, based on safety and effectiveness, with 10 being the best and 1 being the worst.

If you answered “YES” to any of these questions, you might be consuming a product that poses a risk to your performance and health! Keep in mind that there is little to no reliable information on the combinations of ingredients found in dietary supplement products.

And remember: A supplement cannot replace a healthy diet, regular exercise, or medical drugs. But if you find you are eating well, maintaining a good weight and body composition, and still don’t have enough energy for normal work and exercise, we suggest you consult a physician before considering high-risk dietary supplements.

Updated 26 February 2019

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