Attending the Mary Frances Picciano Dietary Supplement Research Practicum

June 20, 2019
Mary Picciano Practicum workshop

A Post-Event Summary by Alyssa Penizotto, CCMPH'19

The National Institutes of Health's (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) recently held their yearly Mary Frances Picciano Dietary Supplement Research Practicum on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland. The ODS is tasked with supporting, stimulating and evaluating scientific research on dietary supplements; and translating information to stakeholders including consumers, industry professionals, health practitioners, and policymakers. Today, dietary supplements are a $46 billion industry that continues to grow and expand, encompassing vitamins, minerals, herbs and botanicals, sports nutrition, meal and weight loss, and other specialty products designed for every aspect, and every age, of life. However, a lack of measurement, standardization, and efficacy of supplements characterize the industry due to extensive gaps in research and an under-regulated market from production to consumption. Serving as a major source of research funding and knowledge, ODS must coordinate with government, industry, and academic bodies to tighten the regulation over supplement ingredients, labeling, and health claims, while simultaneously expanding the research.

The three-day practicum was designed to educate attendees on the status of the dietary supplement industry while highlighting unknown knowledge and opportunities for improvement. A series of lectures were given by ODS experts, nutritional epidemiologists, chemists, the FDA and FTC, industry leaders, advocates, watchdog organizations and more who relayed in-depth and thought-provoking presentations on various supplements from vitamins to unsafe enhancement products. Each speaker emphasized the necessity to further investigate the thousands of products for sale, and increase regulations on how products are produced and sold similar to the strict guidelines placed on conventional foods and pharmaceutical drugs. It is evident that the dietary supplement industry will not only continue to grow but become of ever-increasing interest to a variety of audiences as trendy ingredients, such as CBD, pose critical scientific questions that remain under exploration, including their role in health promotion, and further, the protocols to which manufactures should adhere. The practicum concluded with a tour of the NIH Clinical Center, the nation’s largest hospital dedicated for clinical research.

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