Food Science and Human Nutrition researcher recipient of emerging leader award

The Colorado State University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is proud to announce that Sarah Johnson, an assistant professor and researcher in the department, is the recipient of the Institute of Food Technologists Emerging Leaders Network Award.

The award is given in recognition of new professionals working in the area of food science who demonstrate high potential for success in leadership roles and a strong commitment to the profession.

Interest in the science of foodSarah Johnson assistant professor and director of the functional Foods and Human Health Lab

Johnson’s interest in foods, nutrition and health began in high school. “The idea that food could be used beyond that which is needed to sustain life sparked my interest in the science of food,” she said.

She initially sought to pursue a career in environmental sciences due to her compassion for the environment and sustainability. While pursuing these studies, she realized that her interest in the science of food and nutrition was greater and she made a major change to receive all of her degrees in nutrition and food sciences.

Johnson also became a registered dietitian nutritionist to enhance her expertise and ability to practice in this important area.

Areas of research

Johnson’s research program is based on the use of foods, called “functional foods,” to reduce chronic disease risk, especially cardiovascular and metabolic disease.

“Two-thirds of chronic diseases stem from poor diet and nutrition. Therefore, promoting health through diet and nutrition, particularly through the inclusion of high nutritional quality foods, is a necessary approach,” she said.

Johnson is the director of the Functional Foods and Human Health Laboratory. In her lab, Johnson, her collaborators, and her team of graduate and undergraduate students work to find innovative and natural forms of therapies through the use of foods, primarily fruits and vegetables and their derivatives. Her research integrates multiple disciplines including nutrition, food, and agricultural and biomedical sciences. One of her studies involves blueberries, which may prove effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in postmenopausal women.

In another study, Johnson and her team are currently looking at the effects of red beetroot juice consumption and how it impacts cardiovascular and metabolic health in men and postmenopausal women.

Johnson believes that the role of foods in human health cannot be studied in isolation, as numerous food system components impact the nutritional quality of foods with implications for their effects on human health.

Foods, within the context of the food system, have important implications for sustainability of future food production, food and nutrition security, human health, the environment and the economy. She has recently established an interdisciplinary collaboration between several faculty members within the Departments of Food Science and Human Nutrition and Horticulture and Landscape Architecture to systematically advance and disseminate the state of knowledge on microgreens from an agriculture, nutrition and food science, human and population health, and sustainability perspective across food systems.

Defined as the edible seed leaves of many vegetables, herbs and flowers, microgreens are known to have colorful stems and leaves, a variety of textures and flavors, and high nutritional quality.

“Microgreens are a novel but underutilized food crop with high potential to support human, population, environmental and economic health,” Johnson explained.

Learn more about these research studies and the Functional Foods and Human Health Laboratory by visiting their website.

IFT Emerging Leader Network Award 

The award recognizes Johnson for her professional accomplishments in the area of leadership and potential for further development. She has been especially active at the national level with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, where she served as a member of various committees, including the Evidence-Based Practice Committee, where she held the positions of vice chair and chair.

The Institute of food Technologists logo with their sloganShe is also a member of the Council on Research within the Academy. She has held leadership roles with the American Society for Nutrition and looks forward to expanding her leadership roles with IFT. Specifically, she hopes to support the advancement of the profession through initiatives that identify, establish, and promote evidence-based sustainable solutions to food science and nutrition that supports human and environmental health.

“In my career, I intend to establish sustainable functional foods that are economically feasible for diverse populations and have minimal environmental impacts for the promotion of human health globally. My goal is to lead the profession in this initiative through multidisciplinary partnerships,” Johnson said.

As the recipient of the award, Johnson will travel to Chicago in July, where she will be recognized during IFT18. According to their website, “IFT18 is where the most creative minds in the science of food—including industry, government, and academia—come together with purpose and vision to share and challenge one another with the latest research, innovative solutions, and forward thinking topics in food science and technology.” She will also participate in the IFT Emerging Leaders Network Program, a two–and–a–half day intensive leadership seminar and will engage in networking and mentoring opportunities with the IFT Board of Directors and their corresponding fellows.

“Sarah is committed to developing her leadership skills and to making a significant contribution to both IFT and food science,” FSHN Department Head Mike Pagliassotti wrote in nomination materials. “This award provides her an opportunity to expand on her already strong leadership skills and potential. I cannot think of any individual more qualified or deserving of this award.”

The Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.