UNITED STATES, July 11, 2019 (Worth, by Joon Yun): I started with a simple question: Does consuming food containing stress hormones affect our bodies? After all, we are what we eat, and I was curious if the stress imparted on our foods—starting from when they are farm animals and plants all the way to when they end up on our fork—might have implications on our health. The question hurtled me down a rabbit hole into the mysterious wonderland of food science, a field famous for nonsensical riddles that would have shorted even Lewis Carroll’s fuse, riddles such as “Eat margarine instead of butter, but wait, don’t eat trans fats!” Decoding truths about how we should eat has profound implications for all stakeholders in the food system including consumers, policymakers and businesses.

Even as a growing cacophony of commercially motivated science contributes to this confusion, many fundamental questions about food and public health remain unanswered. To start building a stronger foundation of evidence-based nutrition science, former FDA commissioner David Kessler, former USDA secretary Dan Glickman and I wrote a New York Times opinion piece in February that made a case for establishing a new federal agency dedicated to funding nutrition research—a National Institute of Nutrition. While the cost of using tax dollars to fund nutrition science may be high, the cost of not funding independent nutrition research may prove far higher, as the explosion of diet-related chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes attests. The US Congress has taken notice.

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