Professor of Nutrition Teresa Fung Selected to Serve on Scientific Advisory Committee
Every March, National Nutrition Month encourages Americans to reflect on the importance and transformative potential of healthy eating and exercise. Published every five years and based on cutting-edge nutrition research, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) provides nutritional advice for policymakers, healthcare providers, governmental agencies, and so forth. Professor and Director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics Teresa Fung is one of twenty scientists serving on the Scientific Advisory Committee from 2023-2025, where she will play a key role in shaping the 2025-2030 edition of the DGA.
When Professor Fung found out that she had been chosen to serve alongside elite experts in nutrition for the Scientific Advisory Committee, she was elated. "It is very exciting and thrilling," she says. "It will be a lot of work, but it is important work. I am eager to be on the committee."
Well-known in the field of nutrition for her stellar research record, Fung's work began with undergoing a detailed vetting process by the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HSS) before being appointed to the committee. "They check to verify that there are no conflicts of interest of any kind," she says. "So, it was a careful process."
In February, Fung and her colleagues met in person in Washington D.C. for their initial committee meeting. The committee members comprise a wide spectrum of expertise and occupations; there are registered dietitians as well as professors and researchers. During their first meeting, which was livestreamed and recorded for the public, staff members delivered presentations and explained the research methods and procedures they will employ during their time of service. Discussions among the committee members ensued. During the course of her tenure, Fung will attend an additional four to five public meetings and a number of subgroup meetings. All public meetings will be livestreamed and viewers may provide comments online throughout the process.
As a committee member, Fung will assess a large body of nutritional research. "We will not write the actual DGA document. Instead, my colleagues and I will review the scientific evidence and then provide recommendations for USDA and HHS staff members to write the guidelines. In essence, we provide a scientific report," she explains.
In her new role, Fung contributes to a decades-long practice in which the federal government offers dietary advice to the public and informs nutrition policies. For over a century, the government has provided this information in the form of bulletins, pamphlets, and posters. In 1980, the first issue of the DGA was released. It has since become an essential component of federal food and nutritional guidance.
"The DGA has existed for several decades already, and the guidelines are renewed every five years," says Fung. "There is new research happening all the time, and we need to take this into account and update the guidelines. When more evidence comes to light, nutritional science can evolve."
According to Fung, one of the most exciting things about this role is being able to bring her academic insights to a broader audience. "The guidelines are for professionals and government agencies to help shape their nutrition policy. Nutrition professionals also use them to design and tailor nutrition advice for the general public. Therefore, the DGA has a broad spectrum of use – it begins with policy and then trickles down to the general public and teaches them how to eat healthily. The impact of the DGA is significant because it spans all the way from policy to individuals. To be able to be part of this impactful process is a great honor."
Fung is very interested in nutrition's role in disease prevention and is also fascinated by how nutrition shifts throughout one's lifespan, including periods of pregnancy, lactation, and aging. "Every person eats several times a day, and every time we eat, we are always making choices," says Fung. "Nutrition is something that we use every day, and it can have a great impact on our health. Even when I retire, I will still be applying my knowledge of nutrition every day when I eat. How much more practical can anything be? This is why I love what I do."