Standardizing Supplements: The Office of Dietary Supplements

News Capsules: A new government agency acts to ensure the safety of dietary supplements.

| September/October 1997

The U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements brings science to the consumer
An interview with Dr. Bernadette Marriott, director of the Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health

In 1994, Congress passed a law that ensured the continued right of Amer­icans to buy dietary supplements. The Dietary Supplement Health and ­Education Act (DSHEA) mandated the formation of the Office of Dietary Supplements, part of the National ­Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Office director Bernadette Marriott, Ph.D., is in charge of carrying out the government’s mission to promote research on dietary supplements. Under the stipulations of DSHEA, her office must explore the role of dietary supplements in improving health care; promote scientific study of the health benefits of ­dietary supplements; and conduct and coordinate scientific research that relates to dietary supplements.

Marriott formerly served as associate director of the Food and Nutrition Board at the National Academy of Sciences. She has a doctorate in psychology from King’s College, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, with additional training in nutrition at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Human Nutrition Center.

Herbs For Health: How have you refined the role of the Office of Dietary Supplements in the past year?

Bernadette Marriott: Our focus is clearly on identifying gaps in the research on dietary supplements and advising the FDA and other agencies where more research is needed. The science of dietary supplements is where the science of basic nutrition was at the beginning of this century. We have all this teasing information, but nothing really definitive. This is normal for a new science, however.

HH: What information are we lacking?
BM: We need to know more about three specific areas: How dietary supplements are made; the safety of dosage ­levels; and the length of time one should take supplements.

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