As a global organization with more than 7,500 nutrition researcher members, opportunities to strengthen nutrition research are of utmost importance to the American Society for Nutrition. ASN’s efforts to strengthen nutrition research include ASN’s identification of the top Nutrition Research Needs in the Working Group report “Nutrition research to affect food and a healthy life span” and helping to organize the Nutrition 2020 LIVE ONLINE session “Strengthening Federal Nutrition Research: Gaps and Opportunities, including Lessons from COVID-19”. ASN regularly advocates for increased support for nutrition research and has for many years sought better coordination of nutrition research across all federal agencies. Last year, ASN requested member input regarding one potential concept that has been proposed as a way to strengthen nutrition research, a National Institute of Nutrition. A related panel session to explore a National Institute of Nutrition was held during Nutrition 2019, ASN’s annual meeting.
The white paper “Strengthening national nutrition research: Rationale and options for a new coordinated federal research effort and authority” published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provides an in-depth review of the federal government’s current coordination and support of food and nutrition research. The paper identifies numerous potential strategies to further strengthen federal food and nutrition research and policy both at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and across the more than 10 federal departments and agencies that currently conduct or rely on federally supported nutrition research. ASN recognizes the overall need to strengthen federal nutrition research and improve coordination to help address the pressing nutrition and food systems questions and challenges facing our country.
ASN wants to hear from you! We welcome your feedback on the conclusions and recommendations in the report, and any additional recommendations for ASN to consider strengthening federal nutrition research. Specifically, we want to know:
- Which of the proposed “Cross-Governmental Coordination Strategies for Strengthening National Nutrition Research” resonated the most with you?
- Which of the proposed “NIH Strategies for Strengthening National Nutrition Research” resonated the most with you?
- Which of these strategies do you think ASN should or should not take part in implementing, if any?
- Should ASN champion any of the strategies presented in the white paper?
Visit https://nutrition.org/strengthen-nutrition-research/ to share your feedback through Friday, August 21, 2020!
Strengthening Federal Nutrition Research: Gaps and Opportunities
The session “Strengthening Federal Nutrition Research: Gaps and Opportunities, including Lessons from COVID-19” was organized by The Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy to build on ongoing work supported by the Rockefeller Foundation to identify the most promising approaches to strengthen federal food and nutrition research and policy, as well as highlight findings from a forthcoming white paper also organized by the Friedman School focused on strengthening federal nutrition research. The session consisted of two panels with a diversity of experts who discussed the federal government’s coordination and support of food and nutrition research, outline various limitations of the current system, and potential paths forward to strengthen federal nutrition research and coordination at the National Institutes of Health as well as across the more than 10 federal departments and agencies that currently conduct or rely on federally supported human nutrition research. Other topics from the white paper were highlighted, such as diet-related health burdens and their implications on many facets of American life, including healthcare spending and military readiness. Food and nutrition challenges and concerns, particularly during the global COVID-19 pandemic, was touched on by Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean and Jean Mayer Professor of Nutrition at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Next Dr. Sheila Fleischhacker with Georgetown University Law Center, the paper’s lead author, reviewed the white paper’s findings, including opportunities for and the potential impact of new scientific discoveries related to nutrition. Following the panel discussions, a live Q&A was held with panelists. The session ended with closing remarks and potential next steps from Dr. Paul Coates, ASN President-Elect.
The Role of a National Institute of Nutrition
At the American Society for Nutrition’s annual meeting, Nutrition 2019, a panel discussion was held to discuss the proposed National Institute of Nutrition. The panel was moderated by ASN President Dr. Catherine Field and panelists included Dr. Joon Young, President and Managing Partner of Palo Alto Investors, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, Dr. David Kessler, Former Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. John Courtney, ASN’s Chief Executive Officer. The discussion was also open to attendees to speak with their comments and questions.
Background on the Proposed National Institute of Nutrition
October 2018 – Dr. Joon Yun authored an opinion piece published in The Hill, The Case for a National Institute of Nutrition.
February 2019 – Dr. Joon Yun and Dr. David Kessler, as well as Secretary Dan Glickman wrote an opinion editorial that was published in the New York Times, We Need Better Answers on Nutrition. These two pieces highlighted that the U.S. is overdue to establish an institute devoted to nutrition as the top cause of poor health.
March 2019 – Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan introduced a bill, H.R. 1887, to establish a National Institute of Nutrition under the National Institutes of Health.
August 2019 – ASN Member Dr. Taylor Wallace authored an opinion piece, published by USA Today, We Should Establish a National Institute of Nutrition.
What is the National Institute of Nutrition Act?
A bill introduced in 2019, H.R. 1887, states that the purpose of such an institute would be to facilitate and help coordinate insightful research into nutrients, foods, and their relationships to better health. The Institute will provide grants, cooperative agreements, contracts related to nutrition research that could focus on a number of different areas that are highlighted in the bill. Some of these areas include the gut microbiome, type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, weight loss, obesity, cancer, bioactives and phenolics, health disparities, and mental health. This bill did not see further action in 2019 and has not been reintroduced.