Walter Willett recipient of 2003 Linus Pauling Institute Prize


PORTLAND - The 2003 Linus Pauling Institute Prize for Health Research, which recognizes excellence in research relating to the role of diets and micronutrients in human health, has been presented to Dr. Walter Willett, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

The award is one of the largest in the field of human health research and includes a $50,000 honorarium.

It was presented to Willett by Balz Frei, director of the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, and by Bruce Ames, the inaugural recipient of the prize in 2001. The award was made in Portland, Ore., at the conclusion of a professional conference on Diet and Optimum Health, sponsored by the Linus Pauling Institute. Willett, who chairs the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, is also a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He was honored for his 30 years of excellence in research in the field of nutritional epidemiology and for his in-depth studies of diet, health and disease. These studies have had a significant impact on nutritional policies and public health in the U.S. and around the world, experts say.

"Walter's insights and creative work have set many new standards for nutritional science, including new ways in which we have come to understand the role that micronutrients play in health and disease in the population," said Dr. Tim Byers, a colleague who supported Willett's nomination for the award.

Willett has studied a variety of diseases within the human health field. His research programs have provided the most compelling findings that the risk of breast cancer is increased by alcohol consumption; they have examined the effects that trans-fatty acids have on cardiovascular disease and overall health; and they have contributed much to our understanding of dietary influences on colon cancer.

His work also has shown that obesity increases the risk of breast, colon and other types of cancer. Some of Willet's other research efforts have focused on the relation of dietary factors to prostate cancer, kidney stones, eye diseases, neural tube defects, and other health issues.

Willett has authored or co-authored more than 500 original publications, written pioneering textbooks, and recently wrote a bestseller for the public, "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy."

His book included a new food pyramid, "The Healthy Eating Pyramid," which stressed the importance of the consumption of whole-grain carbohydrates rather than refined grain foods, the avoidance of trans-fats, the consumption of fruits and vegetables, and the maintenance of a healthy body weight as key pillars to promoting health and preventing chronic disease.

The Linus Pauling Institute, established at OSU in 1996, is a national leader in exploring the prevention and treatment of human disease by vitamins, micronutrients and phytochemicals, and the role of oxidative and nitrative stress and antioxidants in human health and disease.