Sports Nutrition and Dietary Supplements Discussed at Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus Briefing

Sports nutrition continues to be a hot topic both in Congress and the news. Because the physical stress from intense exercise increases an athlete's nutrient needs and depletes electrolytes, vitamins and other supplements play a vital role for athletes. However, legal dietary supplements, which are used by more than 150 million Americans, should not be confused with illegal anabolic steroids.

Recognizing this, the Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus, in cooperation with the two leading trade associations representing the dietary supplement industry, the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) and the Natural Products Association (NPA), recently hosted a speaker lunch briefing, “Sports Nutrition and Dietary Supplements.” This was the fifth in a series of speaker briefings since the inception of the Dietary Supplement Caucus in 2005. The speaker briefings are intended to educate Congressional staffers on important issues related to the safety and benefits of dietary supplements.

“There is a great deal of misinformation that gets circulated in the press and by athletes and this is a good opportunity to hear the facts from the experts,” said John Gay, executive director and CEO, Natural Products Association.

Douglas S. Kalman, Ph.D., R.D,, a director at Miami Research Associates, spoke to nearly 70 attendees at the Dietary Supplement Caucus lunch briefing about the importance of proper nutrition for athletes and addressed concerns regarding steroids in dietary supplements. Kalman stressed that a proper diet and maintaining proper hydration were key to athletic training. “When it comes to issues surrounding sports nutrition, I really like to drive home the point that it is food first, fortified foods next, and supplements with products that are geared toward promoting health, recovery and nutrition, come after,” Dr. Kalman said.

Dr. Kalman also addressed the issue of athletes who test positive for illegal, anabolic steroids and then point the finger at a dietary supplement, often without any proof. He noted that there are many laws and regulations in place, including the good manufacturing practices specific to dietary supplements, which mandate that what is on the label is in the bottle and vice versa.

Steve Mister, president and CEO, CRN, who was also present at the briefing, added that “In the vast majority of cases, when an athlete blames a dietary supplement, that accusation does not pan out and it turns out that an athlete has used the dietary supplement as a scapegoat. However, there have been times when illegal steroids have been found in products marketed as dietary supplements—and let’s make this clear—illegal steroids have no place in dietary supplement products. People who put illegal substances in those products are criminals.”

Dr. Kalman agreed, noting, “The dietary supplement industry is a very active industry and an ethical industry, but for those companies that sell adulterated products or drugs masked as dietary supplements, hopefully all legal actions that are available [to FDA] are taken against them.”

Dr. Kalman then went on to review beneficial supplementation for athletes and provided greater insight into how experts can convey appropriate messages about training, nutrition and the use of safe and legal dietary supplements to athletes. He then fielded questions on a range of topics from how to handle the issue of using sports supplements with young and teen athletes, to recent concerns about vitamin D deficiency in the United States.

Though Dr. Kalman’s discussion focused primarily on nutrition’s role in athletic training, co-chairs of the Congressional Dietary Supplement Caucus, Reps. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Dan Burton (R-IN), who were present at the briefing, noted that dietary supplements play an important role in the nation’s overall health and wellness. Polis noted that, “An estimated 150 million Americans, including myself and other members of Congress, use dietary supplements each year.”

The briefings will continue on a quarterly basis, focusing on topics relevant to the dietary supplement industry and wellness arena and will feature speakers who will address the latest science and offer practical information. These briefings will also serve to position the Dietary Supplement Caucus as the experts when it comes to educating Congress on dietary supplement legislation and regulation.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), founded in 1973, is a Washington, D.C.-based trade association representing dietary supplement manufacturers and ingredient suppliers. In addition to complying with a host of federal and state regulations governing dietary supplements in the areas of manufacturing, marketing, quality control and safety, our 70+ manufacturer and supplier members also agree to adhere to additional voluntary guidelines as well as CRN’s Code of Ethics. Visit

The Natural Products Association (NPA), founded in 1936, is the largest and oldest non-profit organization dedicated to the natural products industry. The Natural Products Association represents more than 10,000 retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids. As the leading voice of the natural products industry, the Natural Products Association's mission is to advocate for the rights of consumers to have access to products that will maintain and improve their health, and for the rights of retailers and suppliers to sell these products.

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