Studying the Effectiveness of Dietary Supplements


Posted on December 10, 2020
Amber Day


Dr. Neil Schwarz, an associate professor of exercise science, has three active externally funded, industry sponsored projects in which he is serving as the principal investigator. data-lightbox='featured'
Dr. Neil Schwarz, an associate professor of exercise science, has three active externally funded, industry sponsored projects in which he is serving as the principal investigator.

The College of Education and Professional Studies Department of Health, Kinesiology, and Sport’s mission is to enhance theory and practice, scholarship and service about, in and through human movement, healthy living, physical activity and sport. Faculty in the department work hard to fulfill this mission by providing students with hands-on experiences through service learning and research opportunities. 

Dr. Neil Schwarz, an associate professor of exercise science, has three active externally funded, industry sponsored projects in which he is serving as the principal investigator. 

Two of the projects are studying the efficacy of dietary supplements to attenuate exercise-induced skeletal muscle damage and inflammation. The first of these projects, sponsored by DolCas-Tenshi Bioceuticals Inc., in the amount of $38,000, is to determine the effectiveness of a highly bioavailable, patented curcumin supplement. The second project, sponsored by Horphag Research Inc., in the amount of $56,000, is to determine the effectiveness of a patented French maritime pine bark extract, Pycnogenol®. 

“Both studies require participants to undergo an exercise protocol to induce muscle damage and inflammation followed by serial assessments of blood markers of muscle damage and inflammation, soreness, edema and muscle function over several days,” Schwarz said. 

The third project is studying the effects of eight weeks of supplementation with a patented form of butyrate, called CoreBiome®, on gastrointestinal symptoms, microbiota composition and blood markers of systemic inflammation and gastrointestinal function. The project is funded by Compound Solutions, Inc., in the amount of $205,000. 

“Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid formed from dietary soluble fiber by the bacteria that live in our colon,” Schwarz said. “Butyrate is purported as beneficial for the health of our gut by acting as a fuel source for our intestinal cells. Butyrate is also implicated in the regulation of systemic inflammation and oxidation among other functions, including skeletal muscle metabolism.”

The project sponsored by DolCas-Tenshi Bioceutical is currently in the data analysis phase. Blood samples from this study were analyzed in the biochemical and molecular biology lab in the Health, Kinesiology, and Sport building on campus at South earlier this year. 

“During the blood analysis process, I served as the directed studies faculty mentor for Sri Prahadeeswaran, a biomedical sciences graduate from South who is now a student at the UAB School of Medicine,” Schwarz said. “The opportunity to help with blood analyses allowed Sri to apply laboratory techniques learned in his biochemistry laboratory course at USA to generate real-world data to be used for publication in a peer-reviewed research journal.”

Schwarz has worked at the University for more than six years. His passion for research and exercise science has driven his involvement in more than five externally funded grant projects and many more internally funded and non funded projects.

“I became interested in exercise, particularly resistance exercise, during high school,” Schwarz said. “My earliest experiences with structured exercise were as part of training for basketball. During this time, I found myself becoming increasingly interested in how exercise can cause physiological and structural changes in the human body.” 

Schwarz received his undergraduate degree in nutritional sciences, which helped him appreciate the intimate link between diet and exercise. 

“A major problem with the nutrition and exercise science industry is the way dietary supplements are portrayed as a magic pill or panacea,” Schwarz said. “Many times, the claims made to support the use of certain dietary supplements or nutritional strategies are based on plausible theoretical constructs for how they may augment health or exercise performance. However, our bodies consist of complex physiological processes that don’t always respond in accordance with these theories. It is crucial that dietary supplements and nutritional strategies are empirically tested for effectiveness and safety.”

Recruitment of participants and data collection for the projects sponsored by Horphag Research and Compound Solutions have started this fall semester. Schwarz is currently recruiting participants between the ages of 35 and 60 for the CoreBiome® study. Interested individuals can contact Schwarz at neilschwarz@southalabama.edu


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