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Donovan named to 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

BY Stephanie Henry

Sharon Donovan (MME), a professor of nutrition and the Melissa M. Noel Endowed Chair in Nutrition and Health at the University of Illinois, has been appointed to the USDA’s 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar this past week announced the appointment of 20 nationally recognized scientists to serve on the committee to ensure America’s dietary guidance reflects the latest science.

Sharon Donovan, center, has been appointed to the USDA’s 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee
Sharon Donovan, center, has been appointed to the USDA’s 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee

The independent advisory committee will review scientific evidence on topics and questions identified by the departments and will provide a report on their findings to the secretaries. Their review, along with public and agency comments, will help inform USDA and HHS’ development of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs).

“USDA is committed to ensuring everything we do is data-driven and based in scientific facts, which is why this expert committee’s work in objectively evaluating the science is of the utmost importance to the departments and to this process,” said Secretary Perdue. “The committee will evaluate existing research and develop a report objectively, with an open mind.”

“The scientists we selected to serve on the committee are national leaders in the areas of nutrition and health,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “HHS, USDA, and all Americans will benefit from the collective experience and expertise of the committee, which will conduct a rigorous examination of the scientific evidence on several diet-related health outcomes, including the prevention of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, which are three of the leading causes of death in the United States.”

Donovan, a registered dietician, conducts basic and translational research in the area of pediatric nutrition. Ongoing work in Donovan’s lab is focusing on optimizing intestinal and cognitive development of neonates, development of the gut microbiome, and prevention of childhood obesity and picky eating in children.

“I am excited to serve on the committee, because the 2020 DGA will include recommendations for infants aged 0-2 years and pregnant and lactating women. All previous guidelines started at 2 years of age,” Donovan said.

Donovan also serves as principal investigator with the Illinois Transdisciplinary Obesity Prevention Program; a member of the IGB's Microbiome Metabolic Engineering research theme; and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the U of I at Chicago College of Medicine. In October 2017, Donovan was elected to the National Academy of Medicine.

She served as the director of the Division of Nutritional Sciences Graduate Program in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at U of I from 1999-2009.

“Sharon Donovan’s contribution to pediatric nutrition research is advancing our understanding of some of the most pressing health issues for children and families, including promoting a healthy gut, brain, and microbiome through diet, and preventing childhood obesity,” said Kim Kidwell, dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at U of I. “I am thrilled that she has been appointed to this committee and I know that her participation in informing dietary guidelines for Americans will help to improve lives.”

The committee’s work will kick off at a public meeting to be announced in the coming weeks. The committee will review scientific evidence on specific nutrition and health related topics and topics and scientific questions (PDF, 477 KB) that, for the first time, reflect both public comments and federal agency input. Throughout their deliberations, the public and other stakeholders will be encouraged to provide comments and feedback.

The next edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans will continue to focus on dietary patterns of what Americans eat and drink as a whole, on average and over time, to help prevent disease and keep people healthy. Additionally, the review process will take a life-stage approach and will, for the first time, include pregnant women and children from birth to 24 months as mandated by the 2014 Farm Bill.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every five years and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition programs and policies, providing food-based recommendations to help prevent diet-related chronic diseases and promote overall health.

Learn more, including a full list of members appointed to the committee, from the full USDA press release.

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