of Dietary Supplements Leads National Research Agenda
Wyn Snow, Managing Editor
the six years since its inception, the federal Office of Dietary
Supplements (ODS) has established itself as the torchbearer for
the national research agenda. Its two-pronged mandate is exploring
how dietary supplements can improve health care in the US, and promoting
scientific study of supplements for maintaining health and preventing
literature review key to future research
do we know what kind of research is needed? According to Paul Coates,
director of ODS, a systematic evaluation of the literature will
answer two key questions:
a particular research study support claims of effectiveness and
safety for a specific supplement?
additional research is needed to investigate effectiveness and
to the first question will provide better information for consumers
about specific supplements. According to Coates, research that supports
traditional use of a supplement may not be applicable to pills or
tablets being marketed for other uses. Thus, answers to both the
first and second questions will help shape the national research
will serve as model for constructing research agenda
year's Congressional appropriation for ODS specifically encourages
them to support research on ephedra
and to evaluate current literature on ephedra safety and effectiveness.
Coates welcomes this opportunity for developing a systematic approach
that can serve as a model for other supplements.
the past, ODS has used conferences and workshops as a means of bringing
scientists together to review what they know and form agendas for
further research. Coates believes that systematic literature reviews
will enhance the agenda-setting process by pinpointing specific
gaps in our knowledge.
its modest level of funding, the ODS has co-funded thirteen research
projects and four botanical research centers, as well as roughly
twelve conferences and myriad workshops. It also supports training
and career development initiatives for scientists, maintains a website,
publishes information about supplements, and provides two databases
of information for the public.
projects have investigated a variety of supplements in relation
to intestinal function, cataracts, bone density loss, rheumatoid
arthritis, cancer, zinc metabolism, hearing loss, dental health
and cardiovascular disease, alcoholism, cognitive function, depression,
diabetes, and the nervous system. [See details of cofunded
the past two years, the ODS has co-funded a network of four botanical
research centers. Coates foresees that their expertise in basic
botanical to clinical research will serve as a national resource
for both public and private organizations. [See details describing
botanical research centers.]
and workshops have brought scientists together to share the current
state of knowledge about a range of supplements and to develop research
agendas for the future. [See details describing topics covered by
conferences and workshops.]
than 400,000 citations of research on supplements are incorporated
into the database called International Bibliographic Information
on Dietary Supplements (IBIDS).
database entitled Computer Access to Research on Dietary Supplements
(CARDS) will provide information
on all federally funded research about dietary supplements. Fiscal
1999 NIH research is now being entered into CARDS, which will be
operational within several months.
also views the ODS commitment to support training and career development
for young scientists as crucial to ODS long range goals.
The Office of Dietary Supplements at NIH - Meeting the Needs of
a Modern Research Agenda: With more than 400,000 published articles
of research on dietary supplements, a reasonable person might wonder,
"Why do we need more?" This in depth report presents highlights
from our discussion with Paul Coates, and describes ODS accomplishments
over the past six years and its goals for the future.