By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media
A group of government, research, and policy experts have authored a white paper that calls for an overhaul of the nation’s federal nutrition research, including better coordination and extra funding. The authors believe this could not only improve overall public health, but also lead to higher-quality research and a stronger economy.
Noting that more than 10 separate federal agencies handle nutrition, each in its own way and from different (but sometimes overlapping) angles, the authors suggested creating one umbrella organization, such as “Office of the National Director of Food and Nutrition” or “U.S. Task Force on Federal Nutrition Research.” The white paper authors also identified other opportunities to accelerate relevant research at the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Strengthening and investing in federal nutrition research will generate new discoveries to improve the health of Americans; reduce chronic diseases, disparities, and healthcare costs; strengthen military readiness and American businesses; and reinvigorate farming and rural communities,” American Society of Nutrition Past President Richard D. Mattes, PhD, MPH, RD, said in a statement.
The white paper authors underlined the various health emergencies facing the United States today, including the millions of Americans with diabetes, cardiovascular maladies, and other diet-related, preventable afflictions that have driven up healthcare costs and strained natural resources.
“The nation has come together to achieve major science challenges in the past, such as putting a man on the moon,” Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, paper co-author and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, said in a statement. “We need a similar major national effort to address current nutrition challenges, generating the critical science to rapidly treat and prevent diet-related diseases, improve health equity, increase population resilience to COVID-19 and future pandemics, and drive fundamental and translational discoveries for better lives.”
The Federal Nutrition Research Advisory Group, a consortium of six dozen organizations from diverse backgrounds, expressed support for the ideas outlined in the white paper, including the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the affiliated Cancer Action Network (CAN).
“For most Americans who do not use tobacco, the most important modifiable cancer risk factors are body weight, diet, physical activity, and alcohol consumption,” ACS and CAN wrote in a statement. “At least 18% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S. are related to excess body weight, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption, and/or poor nutrition, and thus could be prevented. Food insecurity has been shown to be associated with poor diet quality and excess body weight in some populations, which can lead to increased cancer risk.”