This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine. For example, USDA research into behavioral economics as part of nutrition research to improve diet and health.
We’ve heard it all before: you are what you eat. We’re fueled by what we consume, so it’s important to provide our bodies with nutritious food. That’s why the agencies within USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics (REE) mission area brought together some of the brightest minds at the Federal Government Nutrition Research Workshop last month. USDA Scientists joined forces with scientists and policy makers from other USDA agencies, Health and Human Services agencies, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Agency for International Development to discuss the importance of nutrition research.
Despite the snowy weather, Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for REE Cathie Woteki kicked off the conference of eager participants. Through a series of short talks and discussion, the group shared information on key topics affecting the diet and health of Americans.
A major emphasis is to investigate how Federal dietary guidelines can promote health, and reduce the risk of chronic disease and obesity. REE research is using cutting edge techniques to study this challenge. The research findings will help us understand individual responses to nutrition, for example, why some people lose weight faster than others on the same diet. This will help develop new education strategies for improving diet and health.
Good eating habits are challenging for most of us. So, the meeting participants paid close attention to the role of behavioral economic strategies in improving consumer choices for healthy foods. And for young people, the decision may be even more difficult. For example, how do we encourage children to choose healthy lunch options rather than eating candy from a snack machine? Our research suggests that making healthier foods more visible and accessible to kids, having shorter lines/faster service for healthier choices and giving catchy names like “Rockin Broccoli” can all help encourage kids to eat more healthy foods.
Interagency working groups will continue the discussions started at the conference and improve collaborations among US Government Scientists. “It was a wonderful opportunity to exchange information and plan for future collaboration,” noted Cheryl Jackson Lewis from USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service.