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Computer Access to Research on Dietary Supplements (CARDS) Database




What is CARDS? 
Why was CARDS developed? 
How can I access and search CARDS? 
What is the source of the CARDS data? 
How can I provide feedback on CARDS? 

What is CARDS? 

CARDS stands for Computer Access to Research on Dietary Supplements. It is a database of federally funded research projects pertaining to dietary supplements. Currently, CARDS contains projects funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Institutes and Centers (ICs) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) beginning with fiscal year 1999, the first year that NIH ICs began reporting research related to dietary supplements. Projects funded by other Federal agencies will be added to CARDS as they become available. The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) will post notices on its website and listserv when CARDS updates are completed.

Codes assigned to each research project allow the CARDS user to identify:

  • research related to specific dietary supplement ingredients; for example, vitamin E or St. John's wort
  • the type of study; for example, a Phase III study or an animal study
  • health outcomes or biological effects; for example, osteoporosis or antioxidant function
  • whether the research is directly related or indirectly related to dietary supplements. For example, a clinical trial comparing bone density in women given a daily calcium supplement versus a placebo would be classified as directly related to dietary supplements. A study examining the activation of steroid hormone receptors by supplemental vitamin D in cell culture would be classified as indirectly related to dietary supplements because the direct physiological or health effects of vitamin D supplementation are not being studied.

A search of the CARDS database can be used to sort and tabulate information for a variety of purposes. For example, a researcher may want to know which ICs at the NIH fund research on herbal supplement ingredients. A consumer may want to know if the Federal government is supporting research on a popular dietary supplement ingredient such as vitamin C.

Why was CARDS developed? 

The ODS was directed by the U.S. Congress to “compile a database of scientific research on dietary supplements and individual nutrients” as part of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) which was passed by Congress in 1994. The information in CARDS is useful to the U.S. Congress, agencies of the Federal government, and the NIH Institutes for budgetary considerations. In addition, CARDS provides useful information for researchers, health care providers, industry and the general public.

How can I access and search CARDS? 

You can access CARDS free of charge from the ODS website. To search CARDS, click on the "Search CARDS" button at the top of this screen or here:

This will take you to the main CARDS search screen where you can enter a variety of search criteria to find research projects of interest. The search engine is designed to be user friendly to allow individuals at all levels of computer expertise to quickly and effectively search CARDS. For example, to search for human studies pertaining to calcium and osteoporosis, select the following:

  • In the "Dietary Supplement or Ingredient" box: Calcium
  • In the "Health Outcome or Biological Effects" box: Osteoporosis
  • In the "Type of Study" box: Human Study (All)
All other boxes blank can be left blank (defaults are set to "ALL"). Adding more search criteria into other boxes such as Funding Agency or Country will focus the search. Since the CARDS database is currently populated with NIH research projects beginning with fiscal year 1999, highly focused searches may yield few or possibly no projects.

In addition to the search boxes containing lists of terms, search boxes for fields such as Project ID or Principal Investigator allow users to search for specific projects by typing a partial or full project ID or principal investigator's name. Text search options are also available to search for words contained in the abstract or title of a research project.

Anticipating that a wide variety of dietary supplement ingredients eventually will be studied, the Dietary Supplement/Ingredient list was intentionally designed to be extensive. As a consequence of developing an inclusive ingredient list, some searches of the current CARDS database may not return any research projects. More topics will be identified as the database is updated.

What is the source of the CARDS data? 

At the start of the CARDS development process, the ODS staff discussed the database project with NIH ICs including the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) which includes the NIH Nutrition Coordinating Committee (NCC). The NCC is charged with the maintenance of the Human Nutrition Research and Information Management (HNRIM) system. This resource is a Federal government-wide, online database created for the purpose of fiscal accounting, management, and control of cross-agency nutrition research activities. In fiscal year 1999, two new nutrition classification codes were added to HNRIM to identify for the first time research related to dietary supplements. With the addition of these new codes, HNRIM provided a readily accessible source of information that could be used to populate the CARDS database.

Since the CARDS database has a more narrow focus than the HNRIM system, CARDS can provide greater detail for each research project. For example, CARDS identifies the specific dietary supplement or ingredient being studied. CARDS also identifies the health outcome and research methodology being used.

How can I provide feedback on CARDS? 

ODS encourages you to provide feedback on the CARDS database. This information will be used for system improvements. To provide feedback, click on "E-mail Comments" from the top of the main CARDS search screen. This will allow you to e-mail any questions, comments or suggestions.