Canada studies effectiveness, safety of natural health products
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BCIT NEWS RELEASE – Researchers at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) recently received grant monies from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to look into the effectiveness and safety of natural health products.
As part of a $520,000 infrastructure grant, the CFI awarded BCIT $207, 743 to develop the Integrated Molecular Biology Laboratory (IMBL) in BCIT’s biotechnology department, to examine the biological activity of natural health products. This award will support the continued development of applied research activities within the School of Health Sciences and the biotechnology program.
Dr. Michelle Brazas, a research scientist and instructor in BCIT’s biotechnology program, led the application along with Dr. Mary Huber (biotechnology) and Paula Brown (Herbal Evaluation and Analysis Laboratory, or HEAL), and will be working with other groups within BCIT and the Lower Mainland to develop the laboratory.
“Natural health products have received so much visibility in the last several years, through advertising and news reports, and many have claims that they can do everything from prevent colds to promote weight loss. It’s important to study the biological workings of these products to determine not just if they work, but how they work,” says Brazas, “and if there are any health concerns with their use.”
The natural health sector is worth more than $2.5 billion annually, according to the Canadian Health Food Association. Health Canada classifies natural health products as herbal medicines, vitamins, minerals, homoeopathic treatments, probiotics and other products such as amino acids. IMBL’s overall objective will be to provide molecular and biological evidence about natural health products. With the assistance of BCIT’s applied research and commercialization activities, such evidence may assist in bringing products to the marketplace. The research conducted at IMBL may also be useful in the future development of policies and regulations for natural health products, which ensure the protection of consumer health and safety.
BCIT is already a leader in this area of research; the institute’s Natural Health Product Research Group, which includes the Food Process Resource Centre (Dr. Gary Sandberg) and HEAL, the Herbal Evaluation and Analysis Laboratory (Paula Brown), has been studying health products for the past decade. These groups will work together with the new IMBL facilities, which are expected to be approximately 1500 square feet of dedicated research space.
BCIT offers several programs in biotechnology and food technology through its School of Health Sciences. The Integrated Molecular Biology Laboratory will be housed in the biotechnology area.