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NIH Announces Two Additional Centers for Dietary Supplement Research

September 20, 2000
CONTACT: Marc Stern
(301) 496-2535

NIH Announces Two Additional
Centers for Dietary Supplement Research

Bethesda, MD - The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), in collaboration with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), two components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announce plans to establish two additional Centers for Dietary Supplement Research with an emphasis on botanicals.

Today's announcement of research awards to Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the University of Arizona at Tucson, will bring the total to four NIH-supported Centers studying the health effects of botanicals. In 1999, ODS and NCCAM funded two dietary supplement research centers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

"These competitive awards of approximately $1.5 million each per year for five years were made as a result of efforts by Congress to promote the scientific study of botanicals and to explore more fully the potential role of botanical dietary supplements," said Paul Coates, Ph.D., Director of the ODS. He continued, "The Centers for Dietary Supplement Research also represent the realization of several scientific goals developed in the ODS Strategic Plan."

According to national surveys, approximately one- third of Americans use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), such as botanical dietary supplements. "The popularity of supplements such as soy isolates, green tea extract, garlic, echinacea, St. John's wort and ginkgo has increased dramatically in the last decade; however, current standards regulating use of these supplements, coupled with sparse information concerning their safety or effectiveness, pose problems for health practitioners and consumers," said Stephen Straus, M.D., Director of NCCAM. "These centers will critically evaluate various botanicals presently in use, and provide valid information to aid the American public in making informed decisions," Dr. Straus concluded. To address these issues, Congress appropriated funds for the ODS in fiscal year 1999 to develop a botanical research center initiative and expanded that support in 2000.

The Purdue Center for Dietary Supplement Research on Botanicals, directed by Connie Weaver, Ph.D., will study the health effects of polyphenols (a diverse group of chemical components widely distributed in plants)--many of which are consumed both for their nutritive value and medicinal properties. Examples include soy, grapes, green tea, and several herbs. The speculated health-promoting effects of polyphenols are generally attributed to their antioxidant action, but other biological mechanisms may be involved and will be explored. Soy isoflavones, for example, function as phytoestrogens that may play a role in bone metabolism.

The proposed research agenda of the Purdue Center is clinically relevant to the two leading causes of death in the U.S., heart disease and cancer, and to two leading causes of diminished quality of life, osteoporosis and cognitive decline. The Purdue researchers will collaborate closely with investigators at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). The UAB research efforts will be directed by Stephen Barnes, Ph.D.

The University of Arizona Center (UA), directed by Barbara Timmermann, Ph.D., will focus on three botanicals (ginger, turmeric, and boswellia) widely used in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of inflammatory diseases. Ayurveda, a medical system primarily practiced in India for 5,000 years, includes diet and herbal remedies, while emphasizing the body, mind and spirit in disease prevention and treatment. The UA researchers propose to identify the active constituents of these three herbs and study their pharmacological activity. This research will lead to clinical studies of arthritis and other chronic inflammatory conditions including respiratory diseases such as asthma. The UA group is recognized for their work in natural products chemistry research. It is anticipated that their future research efforts also will be important to the field of complementary and alternative medicine.

  The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) strengthens 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. For additional information about ODS, please visit our website at

  The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative healing practices in the context of rigorous science; training CAM researchers; and disseminating authoritative information. For additional information about NCCAM, please visit our website at