Department History

Founded in 1942, the Department of Nutrition has a long and respected history both nationally and internationally. As a component within the Harvard medical community, the department engages in a wide range of collaborative projects with scientists in other departments and institutions. As one of Harvard University’s ten graduate schools, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health emphasizes not only the development and implementation of disease prevention and treatment programs, but also the planning and management of systems involved in the delivery of health services in this country and abroad.

The department has made significant contributions toward an understanding of the relationships between nutrition, heart disease and cancer; the relationships between dietary and genetic factors and obesity; and the uptake, balance, and requirements for dietary components. Department faculty members are currently conducting the largest detailed studies of relationships between dietary factors and major diseases. Already many important findings have emerged for breast and colon cancer, coronary heart disease, and diabetes. A large number of reports will appear in the coming years. Nutrition programs and interventions are being evaluated to discern their effects in combating consequences of malnutrition.

In the basic science area, the regulation of lipoprotein metabolism by diet and hormonal factors is being studied in humans. A full understanding of the regulation of cellular metabolism by means of insulin, cytokines and nutrients is being sought using modern cellular and molecular biology techniques and mouse genetics. The regulation of gene expression by fatty acids and the biological role of fatty acid binding proteins in this process are under investigation using knockout mice. Cellular delivery of iron by transferrin and the uptake of other micronutrients by receptor-mediated endocytosis are being studied in an effort to understand how these processes are regulated.