Leaders Call for Nutrition Research ‘Moonshot’

Leading nutrition and food policy experts outlined a bold case for strengthening federal nutrition research in a live interactive session as part of Nutrition 2020 Live Online, a virtual conference hosted by the American Society for Nutrition.

Panelists included former US Senator Tom Harkin, former US Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, and former Commissioner of the FDA David Kessler, along with a host of top nutrition researchers. The experts together offered 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,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and 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 health care 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: One-half of US 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,” Mozaffarian says. “Food is the No. 1 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 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 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 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 National Institutes of Health.

“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,” Mozaffarian says. “We don’t have time to wait.”

— Source: American Society for Nutrition