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Office of Dietary Supplements Issues 5-year Plan

Office of Dietary Supplements Issues 5-year Plan

The mission of the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is “to strengthen the knowledge and understanding of dietary supplements by evaluating scientific information, stimulating and supporting research, disseminating research results, and educating the public to foster an enhanced quality of life and health for the U.S. population.” Marking its 15th anniversary, the ODS has published its strategic plan for 2010-2014.1

The ODS was created in 1995 to meet the requirements of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. It uses strategic planning to establish and review the goals that drive its activities. The ODS budget for the 2010 fiscal year is $29,034,000.

The foundation for this strategic plan is threefold: It deals with the congressional mandates set forth by DSHEA, the DSHEA definition of a dietary supplement, and the ODS mission statement. Based on the input from its partners in the dietary supplement industry and US federal government (e.g., the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine [NCCAM] at NIH, and other stakeholders), ODS has established 4 strategic goals for the next 5 years.

Goal 1: Provide intellectual leadership by fostering research to analyze and evaluate the role of dietary supplements in promoting health and reducing the risk of disease.

To address this goal, ODS will continue to support evidence-based reviews of dietary supplements, including evaluations of their safety, efficacy, and effectiveness of use, and their role in reducing disease risk. With the National Institute of Mental Health, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), and the NIH Office of Medical Applications of Research (OMAR), ODS cosponsored an evidencebased review on Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline that included the effects of nutrition, and is also cosponsoring a review of probiotic safety through AHRQ in collaboration with NCCAM and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

ODS will also encourage the development and use of research designs for investigating the safety, efficacy, and effectiveness of vitamins, minerals, and other bioactives as dietary supplements. And, with its federal partners, it will explore the nutritional status of important supplement nutrients of public health concern such as folate and omega-3 fatty acids.

ODS will continue to collaborate with federal groups to estimate the prevalence, frequency, duration, levels, and type of dietary supplements used by Americans, and to determine the relationships of usage patterns to health and disease risks. It will sponsor workshops on topics such as an economic analysis of supplements for chronic disease prevention.

A new ODS Population Studies program will analyze population data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and other survey programs to select high-priority projects to conduct on its own and with others. It will also support research to evaluate methods of measuring nutritional status by investigating biomarkers as reliable chemical and clinical means of assessing outcomes from supplement use.

Goal 2: Expand the general scientific knowledge base on dietary supplements by funding new research and training.

ODS will continue to co-fund research grants with NIH institutes and centers as part of an interdisciplinary approach to research. Specifically, ODS will cosponsor workshops and conferences to identify research opportunities and will maintain and expand the Botanical Research Centers program to expand the scientific base for botanicals used as dietary supplements—especially emphasizing preclinical research to explore mechanisms of disease risk reduction or prevention. ODS will also collaborate with NIH institutes and centers to support clinical trials designed to evaluate the role of dietary supplements in health promotion, will promote the use of the NIH Human Microbiome Project and its association with prebiotic and probiotic research, and will continue to support the NIH epigenetics initiative. Additionally, ODS will expand the group of research scientists qualified to investigate dietary supplements, with an emphasis on investigators in the early stages of their careers. 

Goal 3: Support the development of research tools for the study of dietary supplements.

ODS will continue its program to develop and validate analytical methods and reference materials for the study of dietary supplements, and will welcome cooperation with organizations such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Currently, reference materials have been developed for saw palmetto (Serenoa repens, Arecaceae), bitter orange (Citrus x aurantium, Rutaceae), green tea (Camellia sinensis, Theaceae), and berries of the genus Vaccinium (Ericaceae). Reference materials for black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Ranunculaceae), soy (Glycine max, Fabaceae), kudzu (Pueraria montana, Fabaceae), and red clover (Trifolium pratense, Fabaceae) are being developed. ODS will continue to work with the FDA to identify potential contaminants in dietary supplements and with the US Department of Agriculture to develop validated methods to determine potentially toxic components of botanical dietary supplements.

ODS will encourage the development of state-of-the-art technologies for botanical identification and for the study of complex herbal dietary supplements. It will support the development of databases of dietary supplement labels and ingredients for use in clinical, epidemiological, and other studies. Along with other government agencies, ODS supported the creation of the Dietary Supplement Ingredient Database (DSID) in 2004 and co-funded a pilot study to determine the feasibility of developing a Webbased database of the labels of all dietary supplements sold in the United States. ODS will support the development of an automated database to provide information on 24-hour recall of food and dietary supplement intake.

Goal 4: Make the most up-to-date scientific knowledge about dietary supplements available to the public.

ODS will promote the exchange of information about dietary supplements among other federal agencies through workshops, seminars, and federal working groups. Specifically, it will continue working with the Federal Working Group on Dietary Supplements to coordinate and disseminate information on dietary supplements among federal partners.

ODS will provide reliable, science-based information on dietary supplements and their uses in promoting wellness. It will expand its website and develop new factsheets on dietary supplement ingredients. Besides the current referenced Health Profession factsheets, a Consumer version will be for the informed lay reader, along with an easy-to-read, 2-page QuickFacts version. In addition, ODS will improve access to the databases of dietary supplement ingredients and labels that are accessible through its website. It has already developed a website with dietary supplement analytical methods and reference materials for academic and industrial laboratories ( FactSheets/AMRMProgramWebsite.asp).

ODS will alert public- and private-sector partners of news and research on dietary supplements. ODS staff will give presentations at scientific meetings and conferences and to consumer groups on the latest dietary supplements science and will build on the Dietary Supplement Research Practicum presented for one week annually to faculty and doctoral students in health disciplines to provide an overview and grounding on pertinent concepts, gaps, and controversies.

–Shari Henson


1. National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements Strategic Plan 2010-2014. Strengthening Knowledge and Understanding of Dietary Supplements. NIH Publication No. 10-7527. Available at: January 2010.