The need for reliable information on dietary supplements is increasing as sales and use of these products grow. Yet today, there is no complete, comprehensive, publicly available and readily accessible Internet source of dietary supplement label information.
On August 1, 2008, the National Institutes of Health's Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world's largest medical library, announced the award of a contract to Abt Associates, Cambridge, MA, for a pilot study to determine the feasibility of developing a Web-based database to catalogue the labels of all dietary supplements sold in the United States.
Dr. Paul M. Coates, Director of the ODS, described the study's significance. "I believe that the creation of a dietary supplement label database will provide researchers, the public and policy makers with easy access to a unique and important information resource on the ingredients in dietary supplements. We are delighted to be partnering with the NLM, which is a pioneer in making specialized health-related databases available to the public. It will permit not only researchers but all Americans to use the label database if they need it."
Dr. Donald A.B. Lindberg, Director of the National Library of Medicine, concurred. "NLM is pleased to be able to offer our technical expertise in the development of a dietary supplement label database that will meet the needs of the ODS. This collaborative effort, building on NLM's existing product, will avoid duplicative work and result in a better resource for both researchers and consumers."
In this pilot study, the ODS is partnering with NLM to modify its existing publicly available database to develop a single application called the Dietary Supplement Label Database (DSLD). If the pilot project is successful, DSLD will continue to meet consumer-related informational and educational needs that NLM is addressing, while accomplishing the ODS's enhanced research goals. The DSLD will provide comprehensive label information in a format that is user-friendly for both consumers and researchers. The information included in the database will be determined by federal and stakeholder user groups. If findings from the pilot study demonstrate that such a project is feasible, then ODS and NLM will consider the development of a full-scale application that includes label information on virtually all dietary supplements sold in the United States.
Dr. Coates also pointed to the need for collaboration by the dietary supplement industry. "Industry cooperation in providing information on products is essential if we are to obtain complete coverage of dietary supplements sold in the United States," he noted. "The ODS and NLM look forward to collaborating with Abt Associates and industry leaders in the pilot project to do this."
ODS Director Coates pointed to the needs of researchers for better information on dietary supplements. He observed, "In research studies, we often need to estimate total intakes of nutrients and other bioactives people consume, and this requires quantitative data on the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients of both foods and supplements. Without such information on dietary supplements, research studies and surveys of Americans' nutrient intake are hampered, and the DSLD should help to fill that gap. The DSLD may also provide useful information for the public health community on dietary supplement ingredients for developing effective consumer educational materials and programs."
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) — The Nation's Medical Research Agency — includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is the primary federal agency for conducting and supporting basic, clinical and translational medical research, and it investigates the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.