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The Pennington Biomedical Research Center’s (PBRC) Botanical Research Center program has received a five year award, totaling $7.5 million, to advance understanding of how botanical supplements may provide new ways to reduce disease risk factors, including metabolic syndrome, a condition leading to diabetes and heart disease.
PBRC’s Botanical Research Center program, led by William Cefalu, M.D., has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) since 2005. According to Dr. Cefalu, "Given the fact that obesity and adult diabetes are so common in the United States, and particularly in Louisiana, many individuals in our community seek ways to prevent or treat these conditions with over-the-counter products just because they are listed as being from plants or considered ‘natural’. As such, these products are very popular for consumers. However, unlike prescription medication, the overwhelming majority of the products have not been adequately tested nor shown to be effective.”
The new grant to Pennington provides vital federal funding of the PBRC for another five years, enabling the research team to develop significant new information on the safety and effectiveness of these products, and in this way serves as a valuable resource scientifically and from the public health perspective,” said PBRC Executive Director Steven Heymsfield, M.D. Rutgers University, New Jersey and LSU, Baton Rouge, partner with PBRC in its botanical research program.
NIH announced the competitive awards, approximately $1.5 million each per year for five years, to five institutions beginning on September 1: Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, La.; University of Illinois at Chicago; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; University of Missouri, Columbia; and WakeForest University Health Sciences, Winston-Salem, N.C.
These five dietary supplement research centers selected are jointly funded by the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), two components of the National Institutes of Health. The NIH’s National Cancer Institute is co-supporting two of the five centers.
These five interdisciplinary and collaborative dietary supplement centers, known as the Botanical Research Centers (BRC) Program, are expected to advance understanding of how botanicals may affect human health. “Eventually, the program may provide data that translates to new ways to reduce disease risk,” explained Paul M. Coates, Ph.D., director of ODS. “Until then, the research from these centers will help the public make informed decisions about botanical dietary supplements.”
The 2007 National Health Interview Survey shows that about 18 percent of adults reported taking a non-vitamin, non-mineral, natural product, spending about $15 billion on the purchase of these products. These products contain a dietary ingredient intended to supplement the diet other than vitamins and minerals, such as single herbs or mixtures.
Botanical products, including supplements, are among the most popular and use appears to be on the rise. Nutrition Business Journal (NBJ) data show that sales of dietary supplements have steadily increased by about 24 percent from 2003 to 2008. Elderberry supplement sales, for example, grew by almost 50 percent during this time. Furthermore, NBJ forecasts that sales of herbs/botanicals will increase about 19 percent over the next five years. Many of the botanicals proposed for study by the five centers appear on NBJ’s list of Top 100 Dietary Supplements According to U.S. Sales, 2002-2008: Part II. They include plant oils, garlic, soy, elderberry, licorice, black cohosh, St. John’s wort and dong quai. The safety and efficacy of these products has not been adequately studied, despite their widespread use.
In 1999, ODS received funding to develop a botanical research initiative that resulted in the BRC Program. The BRC Program is entering its third five-year cycle. Three of the five centers are renewals; that is, they received funding in the last cycle. The renewed centers are Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, and University of Illinois at Chicago.
Botanical Research Center Award Highlights:
The mission of the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements (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. For additional information about ODS, visit ods.od.nih.gov. ODS Media, 301-435-2920.
The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. It is a campus of Louisiana State University and conducts basic, clinical and population research. The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes approximately 80 faculty and more than 25 post-doctoral fellows who comprise a network of 44 laboratories supported by lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and support personnel, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Pennington Biomedical’s more than 500 employees perform research activities in state-of-the-art facilities on the 222-acre campus located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.