Dr. Patrick Stover presenting, “Enhancing the Purpose of Food,” for the USDA-ARS Under the Microscope Memorial Lecture Series
Dr. Patrick Stover testifies in front of full House Committee on Agriculture as part of “Innovation, Employment, Integrity, and Health: Opportunities for Modernization in Title IV” hearing.
WASHINGTON – June 8, 2023 – Patrick J. Stover, Ph.D., director of the Texas A&M Institute for Advancing Health Through Agriculture (IHA), testified in front of the United States House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture yesterday to document that swift action is needed to reverse the increasing rates of diet-related chronic diseases and their subsequent economic burden on health care systems and costs.
Given that many of the drivers of chronic disease are related to diet, health behaviors, and our food systems, Dr. Stover was poised to provide insightful comments on our healthcare burdens, saliently offering solutions. The IHA’s research aims to align Precision Nutrition, Responsive Agriculture, and Healthy Living as a solution to the pressing health crisis affecting all Americans. Medical costs associated with dietrelated diabetes alone total more than $327 billion annually.
“Agriculture and food are the only feasible solutions to address our skyrocketing health care costs. We need to develop a systems-based approach to connect agriculture, food, nutrition, and human health,” said Dr. Stover.
The committee hearing focused on federal nutrition programs, and Stover in his testimony cited the disproportionate impact of chronic diseases and food insecurity and associated costs on rural, underserved, and underrepresented communities, underscoring the urgent need for agriculture-centered, responsive solutions.
“We need to continue the work to eliminate hunger while expanding our mission to also ensure that our food environments promote human health,” said Dr. Stover. “Both the food environment that consumers experience, and consumer health behaviors need to be addressed together through sound policy grounded in high-quality scientific evidence that is lacking at this time.”
A strong evidence base is needed to ensure that policy is driven by the best science – to this end, Dr. Stover created the Agriculture, Food, & Nutrition Evidence Center at Texas A&M University. Dr. Stover also emphasized that the United States has made extraordinarily successful advances through nutrition and agriculture already, but that hunger and health must become the new endpoints for our food systems to adapt to if we are going to tackle the problem of chronic diseases.
“Farmers and ranchers have always been prepared to meet the needs and expectations of the nation, they feed America, and want to be part of the solution to help all Americans,” Stover emphasized.
Dr. Stover, an international leader in biochemistry, agriculture, and nutrition, is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has more than two decades of academic leadership experience, including serving as Vice Chancellor and Dean at Texas A&M AgriLife. Last month, he was named the 2023 W.O. Atwater Memorial Lecturer in recognition of his outstanding contributions to nutrition research.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; however, women and rural residents face notable health disparities compared with male and urban counterparts. Community-engaged programs hold promise to help address disparities through health behavior change and maintenance, the latter of which is critical to achieving clinical improvements and public health impact.
A cluster-randomized controlled trial of Strong Hearts, Healthy Communities-2.0 conducted in medically underserved rural communities examined health outcomes and maintenance among women aged ≥40 years, who had a body mass index >30 or body mass index 25 to 30 and also sedentary. The multilevel intervention provided 24 weeks of twice-weekly classes with strength training, aerobic exercise, and skill-based nutrition education (individual and social levels), and civic engagement components related to healthy food and physical activity environments (community, environment, and policy levels). The primary outcome was change in weight; additional clinical and functional fitness measures were secondary outcomes. Mixed linear models were used to compare between-group changes at intervention end (24 weeks); subgroup analyses among women aged ≥60 years were also conducted. Following a 24-week no-contact period, data were collected among intervention participants only to evaluate maintenance.
Five communities were randomized to the intervention and 6 to the control (87 and 95 women, respectively). Significant improvements were observed for intervention versus controls in body weight (mean difference: −3.15 kg [95% CI, −4.98 to −1.32]; P=0.008) and several secondary clinical (eg, waist circumference: −3.02 cm [−5.31 to −0.73], P=0.010; systolic blood pressure: −6.64 mmHg [−12.67 to −0.62], P=0.031; percent body fat: −2.32% [−3.40 to −1.24]; P<0.001) and functional fitness outcomes; results were similar for women aged ≥60 years. The within-group analysis strongly suggests maintenance or further improvement in outcomes at 48 weeks.
This cardiovascular disease prevention intervention demonstrated significant, clinically meaningful improvements and maintenance among rural, at-risk older women.
URL: https://www.clinicaltrials.gov; Unique identifier: NCT03059472.