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What Are the Best Ways To Study How Complementary and Integrative Health Approaches Work in Humans?

April 28, 2016
Wen G. Chen, Ph.D.
Wen G. Chen, Ph.D.

Program Director
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

View Dr. Chen's biographical sketch

Whether we are considering using an herb or meditation for well-being or to assist the treatment of a medical condition, we may wonder, “How does it work?” For the public, the answer to this question may be mostly for the sake of curiosity. For a scientist, the quest is to understand the mechanism of the therapy, practice, or intervention in humans with the goal of utilizing such mechanistic insight to optimize the impact of the intervention.

Studying the mechanisms of interventions in complementary and integrative health is often a complicated task, requiring a delicate combination of creativity, logic, and rigor of study designs and analysis. In the upcoming 2016 International Congress on Integrative Medicine & Health (ICIMH), the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is sponsoring a workshop on “Models of Basic Human Mechanistic Studies for Complementary and Integrative Health Research.”

With increased awareness and emphasis on scientific rigor and reproducibility in the research community, it is essential to establish a common framework, guidance, and set of standards for research focusing on basic human mechanistic studies. Our workshop is part of the effort toward this goal, and will feature five speakers: Dr. Judson Brewer from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Dr. Qian Li from the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Tian Lu from Stanford University, Dr. John Williamson from NCCIH, and myself.

The speakers will focus on two types of mechanistic research: modifiable mechanistic research, which explores mechanisms that may be modifiable by the interventions; and predictive mechanistic research, which is used to delineate specific subject characteristics and ascertain their predictive power for intervention responders versus nonresponders. Examples of NCCIH funding opportunity announcements, studies funded by NCCIH, as well as the study design and analytical methodologies will be discussed. The workshop will take place from 10:45 a.m. to 12 noon on Thursday, May 19, 2016. We hope you can join us to hear this interesting panel of presentations and participate in the discussion.

More information is available at:|142.


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The budget of   the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is inadequate to fulfill its goals and mission in light of the need to establish whether diet, rather than supplements, is the primary reason that the incidence and prevalence of chronic diseases are considerably lower than that in the United States. It is difficult for NCCIH to conduct a clinical trial to determine the effect of red or white meat (or any other food or diet pattern) on human health for many reasons. I suggest that you perform global epidemiological surveys, both country and regions within the same country, and make the public aware of the benefits of various diets, e.g. vegan, vegetarian, etc.Americans eat too much meat, sugar, salt, and saturated fat, compared to other nations. What is needed are more integrative physicians and education in integrative medicine in the medical schools of the nation. And there should be more education and awareness of diet in high schools and colleges.Americans want to know which chronic diseases can be prevented, arrested, or even reversed with changes in lifestyle. What are these changes? And, why is the prevalence of Alzheimer’s’ in the United States so high, and increasing with the aging of the population? Can Mild Cognitive Impairment be prevented, halted and reversed with diet and other lifestyle changes? How important is the Gut Microbiome in preventing chronic disease and is it an explanation for the better medical outcomes in Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and South East Asia? 

Thank you for posting this article, I can only support for the success of the program, maybe next time we will join.

This page last modified April 28, 2016