National Center for Complementary
and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has announced awards, in collaboration with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), to establish the first Dietary Supplements Research Centers with an emphasis on botanicals. The Research Centers are expected to greatly advance the scientific base of knowledge about botanicals, including issues of their safety, effectiveness, and biological action. The competitive awards of approximately $1.5 million per year for five years were made to the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
For centuries, numerous botanicals have been used with alleged or demonstrated effectiveness. In some developing countries, medicinal plants are utilized as a primary source of health care. In Germany, where many herbal remedies are regulated and prescribed as drugs, botanicals are also an integral component of primary health care. In the United States, a recent survey conducted by the Food and Drug Administration has indicated that millions of Americans use dietary supplements with botanical ingredients. However, health practitioners and consumers currently do not have adequate knowledge to evaluate critically the health effects of many botanical products in the market place.
To address these issues, Congress appropriated additional funds for the ODS in fiscal year 1999 to "develop a botanical research center initiative with major research institutions across the nation." The primary goal of this initiative is to foster interdisciplinary research, in order to identify potential health benefits and to develop a systematic evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of botanicals, particularly those available as dietary supplements.
The UCLA Center for Dietary Supplements Research on Botanicals, directed by Dr. David Heber, will conduct basic and clinical research to explore the potential mechanisms of action of yeast fermented rice for cholesterol reduction with implications for heart disease prevention, green tea extract and soy for inhibition of tumor growth with implications for the treatment of cancer. Further, the UCLA group will conduct research on St. John's wort, an herb used for relieving mild depression, and will also assess the levels of bioactive compounds in several botanicals available as dietary supplements.
The UIC Center, directed by Dr. Norman Farnsworth, will establish a Dietary Supplements Research Center with an initial focus on ten herbal supplements that have implications for benefit in women's health issues, including therapies for menopause. In addition to conducting basic and clinical research, the UIC group will support research training in pharmacognosy (the study of natural products, primarily plants). The UIC group will also provide information on botanicals to consumers and health professionals; educational activities will include an interactive website.
The two Dietary Supplements Research Centers will provide new insights and knowledge to the scientific foundation from which to assess the use of botanicals. They also represent the realization of scientific goals developed in the ODS Strategic Plan. In addition to the ODS and NCCAM, the Office of Research on Women's Health and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences have contributed funding to this project.
The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) was established at NIH in November 1995 as a result of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act passed by Congress in 1994. The mission of ODS is to strengthen 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.