CRN challenges industry to develop an ‘aggressive agenda of scientific investigation’

By Stephen Daniells in Rancho Palos Verdes

- Last updated on GMT

Steve Mister, CRN: "Give consumers alternatives to what passes as science by our critics"
Steve Mister, CRN: "Give consumers alternatives to what passes as science by our critics"

Related tags Dietary supplements Nutrition Clinical trial Folic acid

The dietary supplements industry can demonstrate the benefits of its products by developing its ‘own aggressive agenda of investigation’ and not sit back and let ‘outsiders’ conduct research into dietary supplements, said Steve Mister, president & CEO of the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN).

Reacting to last week’s publications over supplements and mortality and vitamin E and prostate cancer, Mister told attendees at the CRN’s Day of Science in Rancho Palos Verdes in California: “This industry can choose to sit back and let outsiders conduct the research on dietary supplements, or we can develop our own aggressive agenda of investigation.

“If we choose the first option, then weeks like the one we’ve just lived through will become more common.

“If we pursue the second option, the supplement industry can counter study with study, give consumers alternatives to what passes as science by our critics, and gain the upper hand by demonstrating the value of our products for maintaining good health and contributing to longer, healthier and more productive lives.”

Totality of the evidence

Mister’s welcome address was followed by the keynote presentation by David Heber, MD, PhD, from the UCLA. Dr Heber told attendees that he did not believe in the hierarchy of scientific evidence that lists data from randomized clinical trials and meta-analyses at the peak and data from animal studies and epidemiology lower down.

“We need to get rid of the pyramid and replace it with a plate,”​ said Dr Heber. The move to a plate system (echoing a change from the food pyramid to MyPlate by USDA) would give greater emphasis to the totality of the evidence, where epidemiology compliments clinical trial data, which is supported by data from in vitro​ and animal studies.

Dr Heber also noted the growing importance of genetics and genomics in nutrition research. “We are 99.9% identical,”​ he said, “but of the differences, many are related to nutrient metabolism.”

Floyd ‘Ski’ Chilton, PhD, from Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center expanded on the influence of genetic variability, specifically in relation to omega-6 and omega-3 metabolism.

Dr Chilton stressed the evolutionary changes in our diets, adding that we have increased omega-6 intakes over 10-fold in 75 years. Work by Dr Chilton and his group at Wake Forest, in collaboration with scientists at Johns Hopkins and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, has revealed that different racial groups metabolize omega-6 fatty acids differently.

The implications of this research are that, for example, recommendations from the American Heart Association for the daily consumption of omega-6 “may be wrong”​ for non-Caucasians, he said.


Benoit Lamarche, PhD, from Laval University in Canada, presented findings from his lab on research into metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by central obesity, hypertension, and disturbed glucose and insulin metabolism.

Because MetS is characterized by so many different factors, “we’re dealing with a very diverse or heterogeneous population”​, he said.

Despite such variation, results have already shown that a number of nutritional interventions can produce beneficial changes. Dr Lamarche presented data submitted for publication that indicated that the Mediterranean diet pattern was effective at reducing markers of inflammation like C-reactive protein (CRP), but the dietary pattern only helps MetS when associated with weight loss.


The CRN program had room for some controversy, including the potential exacerbation of vitamin B12 deficiency by excessive folic acid intake, and the potential for a DRI for lutein.

Bringing it back to last week’s controversial studies, CRN’s Mister asked: “Can the current state of science in this area stand up to rigorous counter attacks and criticism?

“If this Day of Science provokes these conversations, then this will not have been such a bad week after all. And the adversity will have made us stronger for the ultimate benefit of our consumers.”

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