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Selected Research Results

NCCIH funds a wide variety of research studies, primarily focusing on three areas: mind and body practices, natural products, and pain. We also conduct research at the National Institutes of Health laboratories in Bethesda, Maryland.

This page provides plain language summaries of a few of the studies that NCCIH has supported or conducted. The summaries are ordered by date, with the most recent studies first. For more information, see this full list of published NCCIH-funded research studies in PubMed.

Illustration of a person with low-back pain

U.S. National Survey Identifies Associations Between Chronic Severe Back Pain and Disability
According to a new analysis of national survey data, 8.2 percent of American adults have chronic severe back pain, and about three-quarters (74.8 percent) of those with chronic severe back pain have difficulties with mobility, social participation, self-care, or work participation. The analysis, conducted by researchers at the Université de Montréal and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, was published in The Journal of Pain

September 2022


Illustration of Akkermansa munciphila

Researchers Identify a Phospholipid Responsible for the Immunomodulatory Activity of an Important Gut Bacterium
In a recent study published in Nature and partly funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard identified a specific lipid responsible for the immunomodulatory properties of the gut bacterium Akkermansia muciniphila and explored the mechanisms by which it exerts its effects.

July 2022


Woman practicing yogic breathing

Yogic Breathing Affects Cerebrospinal Fluid Dynamics During Breathing Practice
Practicing yogic breathing may have an effect on an individual’s cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) dynamics—the movement, flow, and circulation of the CSF—and on the health of the central nervous system, according to a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports. This study, conducted by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University and funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the National Institute on Aging, and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, was the first to analyze the impact of deep breathing on CSF dynamics. 

June 2022


Man getting an eye exam

New Analysis Confirms Benefit of Supplements for Slowing Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Substituting lutein and zeaxanthin for beta-carotene in a dietary supplement that slows the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) increased the supplement’s effectiveness and reduced the risk of lung cancer due to beta-carotene, according to a follow-up analysis of a large clinical trial. This new report, which analyzed 10 years of data from Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2), was funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in JAMA Ophthalmology.

June 2022


Illustration of pain regions of the brain

New Research Shows Variation Among Individuals in Brain Representations of Pain
The brain’s processing of pain differs among people, with more individual variation in some brain regions than others, according to a new study from an international group of institutions in South Korea, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Canada, and the United States, including the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. The findings of this study, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, may help researchers identify potential targets for personalized assessment and treatment of pain.

May 2022


Man in downward dog yoga pose with instructor present

Psychological Effects of Yoga and Physical Therapy on Low-Back Pain and Disability
Improvements in perceived stress may contribute to a reduction in low-back pain (LBP) and related disability in people with chronic LBP who receive physical therapy (PT), according to a recent analysis of data. However, the effects of yoga and PT on other psychological factors, compared to an education control group, were small and did not significantly contribute to improvements in LBP or disability. The analysis was funded in part by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and published in the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy

May 2022


Physician talking to patient in office

National Survey Data Show an Increase in the Percentage of Physician Office Visits That Include Complementary Health Approaches Between 2005 and 2015
The percentage of office visits at which physicians provided or recommended complementary health approaches more than tripled between 2005 and 2015, according to a new analysis of data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS). The analysis, which was performed by investigators from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and published in a recent issue of the Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine, also showed that visits that included complementary health primarily involved patients who were age 45 or older, female, non-Hispanic white, and covered by public or private health insurance.

May 2022


Physician and patient talking

Reasons Physicians Recommend or Don’t Recommend Common Complementary Health Approaches to Patients

A new analysis suggests that physicians use a combination of personal experience and scientific evidence when deciding whether to recommend complementary health approaches. The findings also suggest that physicians who recommend these approaches may have some degree of trust in the opinions of both their peers and patients regarding these approaches. Recently published in Journal of Integrative and Complementary Medicine, the analysis was led by researchers at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and National Center for Health Statistics and partly funded by NCCIH.

May 2022


Older woman watering plants

Mindfulness Training Appears To Improve an Immune Function Marker in Lonely Older Adults
Mindfulness training may improve immune function in lonely older adults, according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. The study, which was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, was published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

May 2022


People around a table looking at papers

Researchers Identify Best Data Source for Monitoring Chronic Pain Among Adults in the United States

According to a new review published in the Journal of Pain, the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) is the best single surveillance source for monitoring chronic pain data in the United States. The NHIS is an annual interview survey that collects household health data representing the U.S. civilian, noninstitutionalized population. The review was conducted by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH); Kaiser Permanente Washington, Health Research Institute; Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education; the Office of Pain Policy, National Institutes of Health; and Stanford University School of Medicine.

April 2022