Iowa State professor appointed to Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board

AMES, Iowa -- An Iowa State University Distinguished Professor has been appointed to the Food and Nutrition Board, a unit of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences.

Diane Birt will serve a three-year term on the 15-member board.

The Food and Nutrition Board is a multidisciplinary group of biomedical scientists with expertise in nutrition, food science, biochemistry, medicine, public health, epidemiology, food toxicology and food safety. They evaluate issues and initiate studies related to food quality and safety, making science-based recommendations that promote public health and prevent diet-related diseases. Reports issued by the board have served as the basis for national policy.

"Serving on the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine is a very prestigious position," said Ruth MacDonald, professor and chair of food science and human nutrition. "Diane will be amongst the elite researchers and health providers in the country who will have substantial impact on decisions affecting policies and practices associated with nutrition, food and health."

Birt is nationally recognized for her research on cancer prevention through diet. She also studies potential bioactive and toxic components of Echinacea and Hypericum (St. John's wort), botanical dietary supplements that are widely used by consumers in the United States, although there is little scientific information to justify such use.

Birt is the lead researcher for the National Institutes of Health funded Center for Research on Dietary Botanical Supplements, and is the interim director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture funded Center for Designing Foods to Improve Nutrition. Both centers are based at Iowa State.

She has served on the National Toxicology Program Board of Scientific Counselors, Department of Health and Human Services; and as a member of the National Institutes for Health (NIH) Oncological Sciences Study Section Boundaries Team. Most recently, Birt was a member of the NIH independent scientific panel that evaluated multivitamin-mineral supplements.

Birt received a doctoral degree in nutrition from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., in 1975. In 1976, she was appointed assistant professor at the Eppley Institute for Research in Cancer, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, where she developed a research program in nutritional prevention of cancer. From 1991-94, she was interim chair of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She joined the faculty of Iowa State in 1997 as chair of the food science and human nutrition department, and was awarded the title of Distinguished Professor in 2004 for her accomplishments in research.