University of Vermont

University Communications

Fukagawa Named Director of USDA Human Nutrition Research Center

Naomi Fukagawa
Naomi Fukagawa (Photo: COM Design & Photography)

Dr. Naomi Fukagawa, professor of medicine at the University of Vermont, has been named director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, the oldest and most comprehensive of the six human nutrition research facilities under USDA.

The Human Nutrition Research Center conducts multi-disciplinary basic science and applied human nutrition research with the goal of defining the role of food and its components in optimizing human health and reducing the risk of nutrition-related disorders.   

Fukagawa will oversee a staff of 100 federal research scientists and 50 visiting scientists and manage an annual budget of $22 million.

After a 20-year career at UVM, Fukagawa will retire from the university to take on the new position. She will continue her current research program as professor emerita in the College of Medicine examining the impact of petrodiesel and biodiesel emissions on health and its interplay with food and nutrition.

“To be named director of a national center, one of the world’s premiere human nutrition research facilities, is a great honor,” said UVM president Tom Sullivan. “The appointment is a credit to Dr. Fukagawa’s track record as a much published scientist, her work as a clinician and the leadership role she has played in the field of human nutrition research. We’re very proud of her and wish her great success.”  

Fukagawa said she looks forward to the new position, not only to advance understanding of how food impacts human health, but also to communicate that connection more clearly to the public

"People are confused right now about what to eat and how different foods and production methods influence quality and safety,” she said. “I’d like to get a clear message across to the public about what constitutes a healthy diet based on science and to clarify the issues around food production, so people aren't afraid of what they eat.” 

Fukagawa received an M.D. degree from Northwestern University and a doctorate in Nutritional Biochemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.       

She has served in multiple leadership roles in nutrition and health professional societies and has been instrumental in advising on national nutrition policy. She has served as president of the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, president of the American Society for Nutrition, vice chair of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, councilor for the American Society for Clinical Nutrition and delegate-at-large to the White House Conference on Aging. She was also a member of the Food Advisory Committee for the Food and Drug Administration.

A world leader in exploring interactions between nutrition, food quality and human health with special emphasis on inflammation in response to oxidative stresses, Fukagawa has senior-authored or co-authored nearly 100 peer-reviewed scientific papers, invited book chapters and reviews. She is the editor-in-chief of Nutrition Reviews, associate editor of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and assistant editor for the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

At UVM she was the former co-chair and currently serves as a member of the Food Systems Initiative steering committee.

Fukagawa’s research has received funding from agencies including the National Institutes of Health, the American Federation for Aging Research, the American Heart Association, MassTrace, Inc. and the Ajinomoto Amino Acid Research Program.