A National Moonshot on Nutrition Research

Learn more about the group making the case for a “moonshot” on national nutrition research. Leading nutrition and food policy experts outline 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 (ASN).

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 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 (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.”


NUTR 390: Introduction to AI-Based Applications for Nutrition and Health Research (AIRNH) offers an overview of AI-based applications beneficial for health and nutrition research. It emphasizes the use of knowledge graphs, conceptual maps, and causal diagrams to enhance understanding and practical skills. The course also focuses on ethical considerations in using AI-powered tools, addressing the impacts of structural missingness on algorithmic bias, and exploring data representation and model transparency within the context of nutrition science and policy.

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