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First nutrition roadmap crosses health disciplines

March 14, 2016 Washington — How can dentists and other health professionals better understand nutrition in order to help people improve and sustain their overall health?

The nation's first Nutrition Research Roadmap, released March 4 by the Interagency Committee on Human Nutrition Research, identifies that as well as several other key areas for research from 2016-20.

"Nutrition research now requires approaches that cross traditional health-related fields," stated the committee, adding that dentistry, dietetics, medicine and genetics can all play a role in improving the public's eating habits.

The ADA, which contributed comments in June 2015, was encouraged by the new roadmap, which shows the significance of the interdependent relationship between diet, nutrition and oral health.

"The ADA is pleased that the new roadmap incorporates dentistry and oral health throughout, and that the Interagency Committee on Human Nutrition Research is aware that eating patterns and nutritional status affect oral health," said ADA President Carol Gomez Summerhays.

In addition to improving eating habits, the roadmap also calls for an increased focus on federal research in hope that it will lead to more individualized advice for promoting health and preventing disease. This includes improving research gaps in nutrition-related chronic diseases and health disparities, particularly for at–risk groups such as pregnant women, children and older adults. It also gives special consideration in understanding the role of nutrition for optimal performance and military readiness.

"Nutritional needs differ according to a number of factors, including an individual's age, their health status and their level of physical activity," said Catherine Woteki, Ph.D., under secretary for research, education, and economics at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in a news release.

Dr. Woteki and Karen B. DeSalvo, M.D., acting assistant secretary for health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, served as co-chairs for the Interagency Committee on Human Nutrition Research.

"Healthy eating is one of the most powerful tools we have to reduce the onset of chronic diseases related to nutrition like obesity, heart disease and diabetes," said Dr. DeSalvo. "By focusing, in part, on developing a better understanding of the gaps in the evidence for healthier eating, the roadmap will help provide an evidence base for supporting easy, accessible, and affordable healthy food choices."

In 2013, ICHNR recognized the need for a written strategic plan to identify critical human nutrition research gaps and opportunities that could be addressed over the next 5-10 years.

Find out more about the ADA's nutrition-related activities at ADA.org/nutrition.