ODS should clarify supplements ‘controversy and confusion’

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dietary supplements, Dietary supplement, Crn

The US Office for Dietary Supplements (ODS) has been urged by CRN to use its “unique position” to better disseminate data that can to some degree ease mis-information that on occasion blights the dietary supplements industry.

The Council for Responsible Nutrition’s statement came in response to an ODS call for comments as the body created when the Dietary Supplements Health and Education (DSHEA) was writ into law in 1994, goes about formulating a strategic plan for 2010 to 2014 to replace its existing five-year plan that expires at the end of this year.

That feedback period closed on March 31.

Spreading the word

In an 18-page document, CRN prompted ODS to be more active in sharing supplements-related scientific and other information. It cited a famous study from 2005 that falsely questioned the safety of vitamin E.

An ODS workshop subsequently found vitamin E to pose no risk, but CRN said this finding “was poorly disseminated” ​by the National Institutes of Health sub-group.

ODS is in the unique position to objectively and credibly comment on issues of such controversy and confusion,” ​said CRN​vice president of scientific and regulatory affairs, Andrew Shao, PhD.

“The organization possesses the expertise, knowledge base, proper perspective and objectivity the public desperately needs in these instances. ODS should not assume that every communication to the public is perceived as a public health statement. On the contrary, what the public simply needs is a bias-free balancing voice.”


CRN praised ODS for its work in establishing the​'Bibliography of significant advances in dietary supplement research', but again, said the resource “had not been leveraged to its full potential”.

The Bibliography should be made available in formats that can be understood not only by industry and those in the scientific kingdom, but health professionals, Congress and consumers.

In this direction, Shao noted the proposition that Congress, when writing DSHEA, intended ODS to serve as an “advocate for dietary supplements”.

“While the ODS staff may not be comfortable with the role of being ‘advocates’ for dietary supplements, CRN believes they should seek to be more balanced in their public statements and should also strive to provide more balance based on the totality of the evidence when asked to comment on negative scientific findings or reports,”​ Shao added.

In particular, the body should do more to educate the public about dietary supplements and work more closely with trade associations in areas such as building a dietary supplement product database and validating biomarkers that may improve dietary supplements research.

But Shao noted the positive work ODS has engaged in in 15 years.

“Fifteen years ago, serious discussions of dietary supplement usage patterns and potential health benefits were rare at scientific meetings, while today such discussions are a routine component of research conferences,”​ he said.

CRN’s comments can be found in full here​.

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