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NIH FUNDING INCREASE FOR NUTRITION RESEARCH REQUESTED

This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

NIH FUNDING INCREASE FOR NUTRITION RESEARCH REQUESTED at a Senate hearing on HHS appropriations by Jules Hirsch, MD, Rockefeller University Hospital, who was speaking on behalf of the American Society for Clinical Nutrition and the American Society for Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition. In testimony before the Senate Appropriations/Labor, HHS and Education Subcommittee on May 3, Hirsch urged that "significant funds" be added to research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health "to assure expansion of nutrition research through research grants and research training." Hirsch noted that "a large portion of the health care bill is devoted to diseases that can be prevented" and that "nutritional science is a central element in disease prevention." He suggested that nutritional research "has potential to ameliorate some of our most pressing health problems," such as diabetes, heart disease and osteoporosis. In addition, he noted, "new studies suggest special roles for some vitamins in the development and treatment of certain cancers." Hirsch acknowledged that "nutritional research is difficult to perform" and requires a "multidisciplinary effort involving physicians, dieticians, nurses and research scientists." The "effects of nutritional alterations may require years of patient observation in humans and animal experimental systems," he continued," and "explains to some degree the paradox of an area of scientific inquiry and of clinical effort that is central to the prevention of human disease, yet remains understaffed and undersupported." Hirsch complained that NIH funding for nutritional research "has never exceeded 4% of its total budget and this must be compared with at least a 20-fold greater amount spent by the public on dietary nostrums, special foods and health food store mixtures of questionable value." However, NIH plans to give nutritional research a higher profile under the institutes' soon-to-be-released "strategic plan," which characterizes NIH's "bionutrition initiative" as a "critical health need." NIH plans to discuss the formation of a bionutrition advisory council to assist in implementing the bionutrition initiative at a May 12 meeting of NIH officials and outside nutrition experts ("The Tan Sheet" May 3, p. 10). The meeting will be held at the NIH campus, Building 31C, Conference Room 6, beginning at 9 a.m. In his testimony, Hirsch also asked for $ 3 mil. more in the current budget "to restore funds cut from" the Clinical Nutrition Research Units. The CNRUs are centers that coordinate nutrition research and training with funding from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Hirsch also asked the subcommittee to allocate $ 12 mil. for the "development of new CNRUs and specialized centers of research in nutrition, or [for] program projects in nutrition to be developed by the various institutes" within NIH. CNRUs "require strengthening of personnel and support for fundamental work," Hirsch argued. Currently, there are eight CNRUs across the U.S.
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