Linda Snetselaar appointed to USDA’s national dietary committee

Linda Snetselaar of the University of Iowa has been recognized as one of the top 20 researchers nationally to serve on an advisory committee reporting to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services.


Jenna Galligan

Professor Linda Snetselaar poses for a portrait at the University of Iowa College of Public Health building on Friday, March 1, 2019.

Alexandra Skores, News Reporter

From Iowa State Cyclone to University of Iowa Hawkeye, Linda Snetselaar began her graduate studies at the UI in dietetics. Now, as a professor in the Epidemiology Department and an associate provost, Snetselaar has been nationally recognized as one of 20 researchers to be appointed to the 2020 U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

Snetselaar’s work has involved long-term randomized clinical trials that involve diet as an intervention, she said.

“There are studies that go for many years,” Snetselaar said. “What we are looking at is what effect does diet have on chronic disease. I think that is one of the particular reasons I was chosen to be on this advisory committee. I have done work with all kinds of diseases in older populations and younger populations.”

The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reviews scientific evidence on topics and questions identified by departments, such as Agriculture and Health & Human Services and provides a report on its findings, a press release from the Agriculture Department said. The research will contribute to the USDA’s and Health & Human Services’ development of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

“The Dietary Guidelines for American are updated every five years and serve at the cornerstone of federal nutrition programs and policies, providing food-based recommendations to help prevent diet-related chronic diseases and promote overall health,” the press release said.

Currently, the dietary-guidelines committee does not work with children under the age of 2, Snetselaar noted.

“One of the new ways to look at diet would be to look at those younger age groups,” she said. “I think that is a really excellent direction to go in. I think when we look at what happens in terms of diet with what we eat as our first solid foods is going to be our comfort foods later on.”

Snetselaar noted that, in people’s college years, they may track away from healthy diets. However, by observing those comfort foods early on and making sure they are healthy meals, that may lead to more promising results in adulthood.

The press release said the committee would conduct research involving the prevention of cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, three areas in which Snetselaar has conducted research or studied over the years.

A key element the dietary-guidelines research hopes to develop is transparency for the American public, the press release said, and comments and feedback are encouraged.

Allyn Mark, co-founding director of the UI Obesity Research and Education Initiative and a colleague of Snetselaar, said she was a perfect fit for the new role.

“It is highly appropriate that Professor Snetselaar has been appointed to the Dietary Guidelines Committee of the American Society of Nutrition,” Mark said.  “Every five years, this committee sets forth dietary recommendations based on its review of the best research.”

The first independent scientific committee was officially placed in 1984. Since 1990, the National Nutrition Monitoring and Related Research Act was passed requiring the dietary guidelines to publish every five years.

Wei Bao, a UI assistant professor of epidemiology and another colleague of Snetselaar, said he was also excited to see her receive the honor.

“Linda deserves this great honor, and she is the right person,” Bao said. “Linda is a nationally and internationally renowned leader dedicated to nutrition, education, and research. Her work is inspiring, innovative, and important. She is a great mentor and graceful colleague. It is a pleasure and fortune to work with her.”