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Mission, Origin, and Mandate

Mission

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.

Origin and Mandate

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-417, DSHEA), authorized the establishment of the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) at the NIH. The ODS was created in 1995 within the Office of Disease Preventionexternal link icon (ODP), Office of the Director (OD), NIH.

DSHEA defined the purpose and responsibilities of ODS as follows:

  • To explore more fully the potential role of dietary supplements as a significant part of the efforts of the United States to improve health care.
  • To promote scientific study of the benefits of dietary supplements in maintaining health and preventing chronic disease and other health-related conditions.
  • To conduct and coordinate scientific research within NIH relating to dietary supplements.
  • To collect and compile the results of scientific research relating to dietary supplements, including scientific data from foreign sources.
  • To serve as the principal advisor to the Secretary and to the Assistant Secretary for Health and provide advice to the Director of NIH, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration on issues relating to dietary supplements.

One of the purposes in creating the ODS was to promote scientific research in the area of dietary supplements. Dietary supplements can have an impact on the prevention of disease and on the maintenance of health. In the US, these ingredients are usually defined as including plant extracts, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and hormonal products that are available without prescription and are consumed in addition to the regular diet. Although vitamin and mineral supplements have been available for decades, their health effects have been the subject of detailed scientific research only within the last 15–20 years. It is important to expand this research to include the health effects of other bioactive factors consumed as supplements to promote health and prevent disease.

Considerable research on the effects of botanical and herbal dietary supplements has been conducted in Asia and Europe where plant products have a long tradition of use. The overwhelming majority of these supplements, however, have not been studied using modern scientific techniques. Nor have they been extensively studied in population groups that may be at risk for chronic diseases.

For many reasons, therefore, it is important to enhance research efforts to determine the benefits and risks of dietary supplements.