Prof. Dr. Adam Drewnowski

Director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition and Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Washington


Prof. Dr. Adam Drewnowski is the Director of the Center for Public Health Nutrition and Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Washington. He obtained his MA degree in biochemistry at Balliol College, Oxford University, and PhD in psychology at The Rockefeller University in New York.

Dr, Drewnowski is the author of the Nutrient Rich Foods Index (NRF), a nutrient profiling model that helps consumers identify foods that are nutrient rich, affordable, and appealing. The nutrient density concept was featured in the recent “Future 50 Foods for a Healthier Planet” report and cookbook from Knorr and the World Wildlife Fund. Dr. Drewnowski’s Seattle Obesity Study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, has explored food shopping patterns and the relation between diet quality and diet cost. His work on the nutrition transition in Malaysia and Indonesia has addressed aspect of protein choice and the motivations to replace plant protein with animal protein. Dr.Drewnowski has authored over 300 research publications. He advises governments, foundations, and the private sector on issues related to diets and health.


Public Health Nutrition – challenges and solutions for the next 20 years

Public health nutrition aims to promote the consumption of diets that are both healthy and sustainable. Sustainable food systems produce nutrient-rich foods that are affordable, socially acceptable, and environmentally friendly. The challenge before us is that few foods (and few diets) are simultaneously nutrient-rich, affordable, culturally acceptable and sparing of natural resources and the environment. Paradoxes abound. In general, refined grains, sugars, and fats are good-tasting, have high energy density and high reward value and relatively low cost per 1000 kcal. However, their nutrient density is low. Excess consumption of cheap empty calories is at the root of the global obesity epidemic. Conversely, many nutrient rich-foods, including sources of high-quality protein, cost more per calorie and have a higher carbon footprint per kilogram, though not necessarily per nutrient.

Herein lies the public health paradox: foods that are good tasting, inexpensive and convenient have been associated with non-communicable disease risks. Conversely, foods that are healthier and more nutrient-rich can be more expensive and are not always available to the global poor. Potential solutions range from a whole sale reformulation of the global food supply, including processed food, to consumer driven initiatives for a global change in food patterns.