Nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining good health. Healthy eating patterns and regular physical activity support normal growth and development and energy balance. Healthy eating is also associated with a lower risk of obesity and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and many forms of cancer. Many Americans have diets of poor quality, are overweight or obese, and are sedentary. The factors that contribute to these problems are complex and thus, comprehensive, interdisciplinary research is needed.
In addition to basic science and clinical nutrition research, the NIH research portfolio includes innovative research to develop and disseminate effective individual and population-level dietary behavior change strategies for diverse populations. NIH nutrition research activities also strengthen the scientific evidence base that underpins federal dietary guidance policy through the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Federal nutrition education and assistance programs, consumer dietary guidance materials, and many health and wellness initiatives that target places where Americans live, learn, and work are based on these guidelines.
The NIH nutrition research portfolio supports public health by providing the scientific evidence base to improve health and nutritional status. For example, NIH research has improved our understanding of healthy eating patterns, the role of foods and nutrients, dietary supplements, and the microbiome in human health, and environmental influences on diet, physical activity, and health. The NIH supports biomedical research and training in nutrition as it relates to the basic sciences, human development, and disease prevention and treatment. This Research Highlight on nutrition provides examples of research activities and programs across the NIH as well as recent scientific advances and resources that have been developed by the NIH and numerous federal partners. For information about obesity prevention research, please see the Prevention Research Highlights on Obesity.