Pitt Public Health Nutritional Epidemiologist Selected to Serve on Federal Panel Shaping Pregnancy Diet and Health Guidelines

By: Allison Hydzik


For the first time, federal dietary and health guidelines for Americans are being updated to include comprehensive advice for pregnant women.

To shape that guidance, the U.S. departments of Agriculture and Health & Human Services are turning to a panel of experts that includes Lisa Bodnar, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology.

The panel will provide advice for the 2020 edition of the existing Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and will include a new section aimed at improving the health of pregnant women.

“Women who are pregnant or likely to become pregnant have unique nutritional needs and health considerations,” said Dr. Bodnar. “Providing them with clear, research-backed guidance is an important part of ensuring they have healthy pregnancies and give their babies the best possible start in life. I’m honored to be able to provide my expertise to this important mission.”

Dr. Bodnar will be a member of the Pregnancy Working Group as part of the USDA-HHS Foundational Review Project on Diet and Health for Pregnancy and Birth to 24 Months.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans was created to provide sound advice for people wanting to make food and physical activity choices that promote good health and a healthy weight, as well as help prevent disease.

Dr. Bodnar has conducted numerous epidemiological studies looking at various aspects of nutrition and health before and during pregnancy, and the impact on the baby. Recently she found that achieving a healthy weight before becoming pregnant significantly reduces the risk of infant mortality. She’s also shown that low vitamin D levels during pregnancy are linked with preterm birth and preeclampsia in some mothers.

She’s previously served in other advisory positions regarding health and pregnancy, including at a recent Institute of Medicine workshop on reducing childhood obesity, where she explained that obesity during pregnancy is associated with obese children.