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Leaders call for 'Moonshot' on nutrition research

June 02, 2020

Leading nutrition and food policy experts outline a bold case for strengthening federal nutrition research in a live interactive session as part of
Panelists include Former U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman and Former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration David Kessler, along with a host of top nutrition researchers. The experts together offer a frank accounting of the dire state of Americans' health--even before the COVID-19 pandemic--and a vision for advancing nutrition science and policy.

"The time has come for a national 'moonshot' on nutrition research," said Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, chair of the session. "A strengthening of federal nutrition research has significant potential to generate new discoveries to improve and sustain the health of all Americans, reduce healthcare costs, improve health disparities, create new businesses and jobs, reinvigorate farms and rural communities, strengthen military readiness and optimize use of our natural resources."

Even without COVID-19, about 40,000 Americans die each month from diseases related to poor diets and tens of millions are food insecure. More Americans are sick than healthy: Half of U.S. adults have diabetes or prediabetes and nearly 3 in 4 are overweight or obese. Almost three-quarters of young Americans cannot qualify for military service, with obesity being the leading medical disqualifier.

"COVID-19 pulled back the curtain on so many food and nutrition issues," said Mozaffarian. "Food is the number one cause of poor health in America, with hundreds of billions of dollars spent each year on preventable, diet-related illnesses."

The session draws on a forthcoming white paper, to be published in the
, that reviews the current state of nutrition research and identifies strategies to bolster and coordinate food and nutrition research and policy at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and across all federal bodies. The paper outlines two priorities: a new authority for robust cross-governmental coordination of nutrition research; and strengthened authority and investment for nutrition research within the NIH.

The session's first panel, focusing on opportunities for federal coordination of food and nutrition research and policy, features Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman; Iowa State University professor and Former U.S. Department of Agriculture Chief Scientist Catherine Woteki, PhD; and David Kessler, JD, MD, Former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The second panel, focusing on opportunities for NIH nutrition research, includes Former Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA); U.S. Public Health Service Rear Admiral (Ret) Van Hubbard, PhD, MD; and Patrick Stover, PhD, Vice Chancellor and Dean of Agriculture and Life Science at Texas A&M University.

In addition to Mozaffarian, the session's speakers are ASN Vice President Elect Paul Coates, PhD; ASN Chief Science Policy Officer Sarah Ohlhorst; and Sheila Fleischhacker, PhD, JD, of Georgetown University Law Center. William Li, MD, CEO of The Angiogenesis Foundation and Sylvia Rowe, President, ST Strategy and Chair of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Food and Nutrition Board Food Forum serve as moderators.

"We hope this session, and the forthcoming white paper, will spark a broad national conversation around the critical importance of national nutrition research and the very real opportunities before us," said Mozaffarian. "We don't have time to wait."
The session, "Strengthening Federal Nutrition Research: Gaps and Opportunities, including Lessons from COVID-19," will be held at 2:30-4 p.m. on Tuesday, June 2.


NUTRITION 2020 LIVE ONLINE is a dynamic virtual event showcasing new research findings and timely discussions on food and nutrition. The online meeting, held June 1-4, 2020, is hosted by the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) with support from the ASN Foundation. ASN's flagship meeting, Nutrition 2020, was canceled due to the impacts of COVID-19. #NutritionLiveOnline

About the American Society for Nutrition (ASN)

ASN is the preeminent professional organization for nutrition research scientists and clinicians around the world. Founded in 1928, the society brings together the top nutrition researchers, medical practitioners, policy makers and industry leaders to advance our knowledge and application of nutrition. ASN publishes four peer-reviewed journals and provides education and professional development opportunities to advance nutrition research, practice and education.

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American Society for Nutrition

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