Auburn University researchers are testing the safety and efficacy of the ingredients of nutritional supplements with the help of a gift from 4Life, a company known for its immune system support products.
Faculty and students in the Molecular and Applied Sciences Lab in the School of Kinesiology are interested in nutrition and exercise and how they improve biological or physiological markers. The researchers look at specific dietary ingredients and how they affect different physiological systems both with and without exercise.
"For example, how does protein affect muscle-building mechanisms if you work out, or if you resistance train, how can dietary protein enhance that response?" said Mike Roberts, lab director and an assistant professor in the College of Education. "In terms of how that fits in with 4Life and our partnership, they are marketing products for the immune system. We're currently doing phase one trials – we design the studies and share with them the assays we can do – and the goal is to see if these products are efficacious. At the same time, their gift is providing funding for our lab."
The $100,000 gift from 4Life Research provides for student support, research projects, equipment purchase and travel for the lab.
"As a leader in the industry, 4Life's investment in university research is integral to the innovation, substantiation and education with which we approach all scientific development projects," said 4Life Chief Scientific Officer Chris Lockwood.
Roberts and Lockwood studied together at the University of Oklahoma and have collaborated on projects for a number of years due to their mutual interest in protein and exercise.
"Chris wanted to continue exploring how different nutraceutical ingredients, or dietary supplements, can affect various physiological systems," said Roberts. "During my postdoc work at Missouri, we continued testing to see if certain ingredients did what they said and discovered certain ingredients. When Chris joined 4Life, he really wanted to continue to get input from our lab based on our previous work.
"He was very supportive of my work here at Auburn and was able to source the ingredients and provide the donation to allow for the studies."
Roberts said that what makes the partnership with 4Life unique is the company's interest in investing in the academic study of their products' ingredients and conducting the research to ensure those products are safe and effective.
"Academic associations are excellent to underscore our commitment to science," said 4Life Vice President for Communications Calvin Jolley.
"We are so excited about our partnership with 4Life," said School of Kinesiology Director Mary Rudisill. "We share a similar commitment to advancing health for our society."
The researchers already have completed a number of studies using 4Life's hydrolyzed whey protein, which are being submitted for publication within the next month.
"Chris' goals, especially with our partnership, are to provide us lab support for research and to allow 4Life to see what works and what doesn't," Roberts said. "It's kind of a match made in heaven because my direct interests relate to their goals and marketing. I think this is a situation where all parties win."