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Research Project: Designing and Implementing a Systems Approach to Responsive Agriculture and Precision Nutrition

Location: Responsive Agricultural Food Systems Research

Project Number: 3093-51000-001-001-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2023
End Date: Jan 31, 2025

Texas A&M University System scientists will collaborate with scientists in the USDA ARS Responsive Agricultural Food Systems Research Unit (RAFSRU) located at College Station and in collaboration with other locations to conduct a broad range of research activities that will address how agriculture, food and human nutrition can promote human health and lower rates of diet-related chronic disease. Specifically, research will be conducted to demonstrate how responsive agriculture and precision nutrition can refine the dietary needs more carefully for the U.S. population and how to more carefully tailor the agricultural process and food environments to supply those needs. Research conducted under this cooperative research agreement will advance the food and agriculture system cohesiveness to improve diets and health outcomes; to reduce diet-related health care costs; to ensure the food system is safe, and environmentally and economically sustainable; and to reduce food waste while increasing food production to levels needed to nourish the estimated 9+ billion people on earth by 2050. Diet quality has been shown to affect the health of Americans through the maintenance of essential functions and by reducing the risk of chronic disease, which include obesity, certain cancers, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Significantly, all these disease states respond to diet. The cost of chronic disease in the United States is estimated to be greater than $1 trillion annually. Obesity, the most prevalent, affects 40% of the population, and obesity is causative for other comorbidities including diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. Reducing the risk of diet-related chronic diseases, such as obesity, and associated health care costs requires a partnership across scientists working in agriculture, food, and human health. Agriculture directly influences human health by supplying the basic foundation of a food system that then provides the basis for human diets, which directly affect health and risk of chronic disease. Responsive agriculture and precision nutrition, the two foci of this research agreement, seek to better refine and meet the dietary needs for the U.S. population and to more carefully tailor the agricultural process to meet those needs. Multiple-disciplinary approaches will integrate agricultural production management, breeding for seedstock, environmental and economic sustainability, consumer attitudes, and public health/nutrition. Central to this approach is understanding how agriculture affects the nature and abundance of the food supply and, thus, human health, and developing methods to link diverse datasets and decipher the dynamics of complex geographic, seasonal, and socioeconomic interactions within agricultural systems.

To better align production agricultural systems with human health outcomes in a way that is environmentally, and economically sustainable, evidence-based research will be conducted that connects food and nutrient intakes with health promotion and chronic disease prevention across the human lifespan. Special attention will focus on variability among individuals in the diet-disease relationship. The agriculture system provides opportunities to substantially reduce diet-related chronic diseases with approximately 50% of US adults being treated for a chronic disease. Chronic diseases emerge through interactions among many nutrients and physiological pathways, thereby one must consider systems/networks over pathways, and establish system readouts as biomarkers of health (integrative biomarkers) to understand how nutrition modifies biomarkers of aging and markers of age-related physiological system decay. Researchers will conduct studies to define and refine the critical intersection among responsive agriculture, quality food production, and human nutrition and health that will demonstrate advancements in the food and agriculture system and provide data for public health recommendations. Collecting evidence-based findings that connect nutrient intakes to health promotion and chronic disease prevention across the lifespan is a major gap to setting future nutrient-based and food-based requirements.