Each year U.S. medical costs associated with major chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoporosis, hypertension and obesity, exceed $400 billion dollars, which places a large economic burden on society. These diseases also have a devastating impact on the lives of the individuals, families and communities affected. Many of these disorders are known to be directly linked to diet. This means that many challenges in health care could be proactively improved by producing a healthier food supply as a preventive care strategy. Food based solutions to health and wellness would create a healthier citizenry and reduce the incidence of chronic diseases. Thus food-based solutions could decrease U.S. medical costs and improve the quality of life by providing a viable solution to spiraling health care costs.
A simple but often overlooked truism is that the food and agricultural industries are significant players in feeding the world and as such could have a major role in improving health and wellness. This means that the health of the U.S. population can be dramatically improved by making the food supply healthier. However, this is not a simple task as these healthier foods must remain a good economic value, be convenient to prepare, and taste good. The success of a health intervention is dependent on both effectiveness and compliance. Efficacy relates to the ability of the intervention to alter a biological pathway that improves health. However, no matter how effective an intervention is, it will not be successful if compliance is poor. This is also true for healthy foods as they must be effective and impact biological pathways while also tasting good, being convenient, and reasonably priced so that consumers will regularly purchase and use the products. This is especially true in today's world where many families have dual bread winners, long commuting times, and economic challenges resulting in less than 6 minutes/day spent on food shopping and less than 26 min/day spent on food preparation.
The Fergus M. Clydesdale Center for Foods for Health and Wellness at the University of Massachusetts Amherst develops and implements innovative Food Science and Policy solutions to enhance foods that can improve the health and wellness of our food supply. This goal requires a unique partnership of outstanding faculty, students, and technicians conducting fundamental research to develop technologies that can be transferred to the private sector through open innovation partnerships. The center consists of state-of-the-art laboratories and scientific instrumentation to conduct research on the discovery and characterization of bioactive food components, and technologies that can be used to incorporate them into foods in a way that they can improve health and wellness without negatively impacting food quality.