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About The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS)

Origin and Mandate
Research and Programs
Strategic Plan
Conferences and Workshops
ODS Staff


The mission of 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.

Origin and Mandate

The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (Public Law 103-417, DSHEA), authorized the establishment of the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) at the NIH. The ODS was created in 1995 within the Office of Disease Prevention (ODP), Office of the Director (OD), NIH. DSHEA defined the purpose and responsibilities of ODS as follows:

  • To explore more fully the potential role of dietary supplements as a significant part of the efforts of the United States to improve health care.
  • To promote scientific study of the benefits of dietary supplements in maintaining health and preventing chronic disease and other health-related conditions.
  • To conduct and coordinate scientific research within NIH relating to dietary supplements.
  • To collect and compile the results of scientific research relating to dietary supplements, including scientific data from foreign sources.
  • To serve as the principal advisor to the Secretary and to the Assistant Secretary for Health and provide advice to the Director of NIH, the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration on issues relating to dietary supplements.
One of the purposes in creating the ODS was to promote scientific research in the area of dietary supplements. Dietary supplements can have an impact on the prevention of disease and on the maintenance of health. In the US, these ingredients are usually defined as including plant extracts, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and hormonal products that are available without prescription and are consumed in addition to the regular diet. Although vitamin and mineral supplements have been available for decades, their health effects have been the subject of detailed scientific research only within the last 15-20 years. It is important to expand this research to include the health effects of other bioactive factors consumed as supplements to promote health and prevent disease. Considerable research on the effects of botanical and herbal dietary supplements has been conducted in Asia and Europe where plant products have a long tradition of use. The overwhelming majority of these supplements, however, have not been studied using modern scientific techniques. Nor have they been extensively studied in population groups that may be at risk for chronic diseases. For many reasons, therefore, it is important to enhance research efforts to determine the benefits and risks of dietary supplements.

Research and Programs

The ODS does not have granting authority and, therefore, largely provides research funding through collaboration with the NIH Institutes and Centers (ICs) in support of basic and clinical studies addressing dietary supplements. Through this process, grant applications that are reviewed through the standard NIH review process and fall within the research priority areas of the ODS, can be submitted to the ODS for co-funding. ODS also uses other available mechanisms (such as cooperative agreements, interagency agreements and contracts) to meet its goals. (Research and Programs) The ODS has several program areas:

  • Evidence-based reviews of efficacy and safety of dietary supplements that ODS and its IC partners use to define target areas for future research.
  • A program of dietary supplement research centers focused on botanicals, in collaboration with NCCAM, NIEHS, and other ICs and Offices.
  • Collaboration with ICs on intervention studies that use specific well-defined dietary supplements, including botanicals, as major variables.
  • A training and career development program for the preparation of scientists in a variety of disciplines to address emerging problems of dietary supplement research.
  • Databases of dietary supplement ingredients, developed in collaboration with other Federal agencies, to support surveys of dietary supplement intake and exposure.
  • Analytical methods and reference materials program.
  • Consumer-oriented products, including Fact Sheets, databases of dietary supplement research activities and literature citations.

Strategic Planning

"Promoting Quality Science in Dietary Supplement Research, Education and Communication: A Strategic Plan for the Office of Dietary Supplements 2004-2009" is available at (PDF, 13MB). To receive a copy of the printed version, contact ODS at

The goals and initiatives in this plan for 2004-2009, as in the original plan in 1998, emphasize the important role of ODS in research on disease prevention and health promotion, education, and communication of scientific information about dietary supplements. The plan for 2004-2009 provides a roadmap intended to catalyze research that will expand the scientific knowledge base to improve health of the public.

The ODS held a public meeting on May 20, 2005, as a part of maintaining the currency of its Strategic Plan. Representatives of the ODS stakeholder community and other interested parties identified emerging needs and opportunitites for possible inclusion. A synopsis of the reommendations, the presentations, and comments are available at

In preparation for developing its strategic plan, the Office of Dietary Supplements prepared a document summarizing its accomplishments from 1995 to 2003. The Background Paper for Strategic Planning is available at:

Conferences and Workshops

The ODS plans, organizes, and supports conferences, workshops, and symposia on scientific topics related to dietary supplements. The ODS works with other NIH Institutes and Centers, other government agencies, professional organizations, and public advocacy groups. Conference goals are to identify gaps in scientific knowledge and establish a realistic research agenda to address these gaps. (Conferences and Workshops)

ODS Staff

For more information on the ODS program, contact:
    Paul M. Coates, Ph.D.
    Office of Dietary Supplements
    National Institutes of Health
    Suite 3B01
    6100 Executive Boulevard
    Bethesda, MD 20892-7517
    Phone: 301-435-2920
    FAX: 301-480-1845

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