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Ever wonder who participates in medical studies? People like you

Ever wonder who participates in medical studies? People like you
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(BPT) - Giving blood and participating in fundraiser walks are popular ways to help those in need, but there's another way to directly support America's medical research communities and advance important knowledge that could someday improve or save lives: participate in a clinical trial.

Research studies are one of the most effective ways for scientists to advance knowledge in virtually every facet of health care. From studying nutrition and exercise, to developing new treatments and more, clinical trials shape the future of health care for everyone.

Thousands of institutions across the country are looking for people just like you to participate in a research study. ClinicalTrials.gov — a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health — currently lists over 95,000 studies in the U.S. with locations in all 50 states. You can search by a variety of criteria, including age, health condition and location, to find studies that are a match to your interests.

According to JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, Chief, Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, “Volunteers are critical to the research process. Without the dedication and altruism of study volunteers, researchers wouldn’t be able to get the answers needed to advance science and improve health.”

Dr. Manson is part of several large, groundbreaking clinical trials, including the nationwide VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL (VITAL) and the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI). VITAL is testing the role of vitamin D, with and without omega-3 fish oil, supplements in the prevention of cancer, heart disease and stroke. The WHI is a long-term national health study focused on preventing heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and osteoporotic fractures in postmenopausal women.

Today, Dr. Manson and her colleague, Dr. Howard Sesso (also at Brigham and Women’s Hospital) are lead investigators of the COcoa Supplement and Multivitamin Outcomes Study (COSMOS), a landmark clinical trial examining the role of cocoa flavanols, plant-derived bioactive compounds from the cacao bean, and a multivitamin supplement in helping people maintain cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of other chronic diseases such as cancer. COSMOS is the largest and longest dietary intervention trial to date that will investigate the impact of cocoa flavanols on risk of heart attack, stroke and death from cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, researchers will examine the potential cognitive benefits of cocoa flavanols. They will build off of two smaller studies from Columbia University Medical Center and the University of L’Aquila in Italy, indicating that cocoa flavanols slow the rate of age-related memory loss in healthy individuals.

Dr. Manson, Dr. Sesso, and their team are looking to enroll 18,000 women and men nationwide to take cocoa flavanol and multivitamin supplements for 4 years. If you are interested in volunteering for COSMOS, you can visit www.cosmostrial.org/join or call 800-633-6913 to learn more.

To participate in a study you must meet eligibility requirements. For example, the COSMOS trial requires that:

1. Men be 60 years and older and women be 65 years and older

2. Participants have never had a heart attack or stroke, a new diagnosis of cancer in the past two years, or a major illness that would prevent them from completing a 4-year study

3. Participants forego personal use of cocoa extract supplements and multivitamins (You can still eat chocolate!)

Compensation for every study is different, but typically, you can expect the study treatments and any interaction with the researchers to be free of charge. Some research studies provide opportunities for additional compensation.

Whether research is focused on diagnosis, treatment or prevention, you have an opportunity to make a difference by helping medical researchers make tomorrow's big health care discoveries. Help others — and potentially yourself — live healthier in the future. Explore clinical trial opportunities that are right for you today.