Hegsted, D. Mark (David Mark), 1914-2009

Alternative names
Birth 1914-03-25
Death 2009-06-16

Biographical notes:

Hegsted (Wisconsin, Ph.D. 1940) taught nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health from 1942. From 1968 he served as head of the Food and Nutrition Board, National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council. His principal research interests are in nutritional needs in underdeveloped areas of the world and protein and calcium requirements.

From the description of Papers of D. Mark Hegsted, 1952-1978 (bulk). (Harvard University). WorldCat record id: 281440745

D. (David) Mark Hegsted (1914-2009), B.A., 1936, University of Idaho, Moscow; Ph.D., 1940, University of Wisconsin, Madison, was a Professor of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston from 1942 to 1980. Hegsted also held appointments as: Administrator of Human Nutrition in the United States Department of Agriculture (1978-1982); Associate Director for Research at Harvard Medical School's New England Regional Primate Research Center (1982-1986); Editor of Nutrition Reviews (1968–1978); and Associate Editor for both the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1958–1968) and the Journal of Nutrition (1950–1952). Hegsted’s main areas of research and professional work were nutrition and dietary science; he focused on researching the relationship between food consumption and health.

David Mark Hegsted was born in Rexburg, Idaho in 1914. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Idaho in 1936 and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin in 1940. After receiving his Ph.D., Hegsted worked for one year as a researcher with Abbott Laboratories in Chicago. In 1942, he was recruited as one of the first faculty members in the newly opened Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health . He stayed with the Department until his retirement in 1980, becoming a full professor in 1962. During his time at the School of Public Health, Hegsted worked with the Federal government as the Administrator of Human Nutrition in the Department of Agriculture (1978-1982). He also worked as the Associate Director for Research at the New England Regional Primate Research Center at Harvard Medical School from 1982 to 1986.

In the early 1960s, Hegsted and a team of researchers were responsible for the development of a mathematical model (later known as the “Hegsted equation”) which predicts the effect of fat in food on human serum cholesterol levels. In the mid-1970s, Hegsted helped to draft the original Dietary Goals for Americans, which was later adapted into the Federal publication, Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Goals, and later Guidelines, recommended a generally "lighter" diet, adding more fruit and vegetables and moving away from dependence on sodium and fat-heavy foods. The Goals were originally hotly contested, as meat, milk, and egg producers saw them as a direct attack on the centrality of these foodstuffs in the American diet.

Hegsted served as president of the American Institute of Nutrition and on advisory committees for the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Research Council. In 1973, Hegsted was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He was also a fellow of the American Institute of Nutrition and the American College of Nutrition.

During his professional career, Hegsted received the Osborne and Mendel Award, the Conrad A. Elvehjem Award for Public Service in Nutrition, the Bristol-Myers Squibb/Mead Johnson Award for Distinguished Achievement in Nutritional Research, and a Distinguished Recognition Award from the American Diabetic Association. In 2007, Hegsted received a Professor Emeritus Award of Merit from the Harvard School of Public Health and there is an annual lecture fund jointly named after Hegsted and Professor Fredrick Stare, the founding chair of the Department of Nutrition.

Hegsted died on 16 June 2009 in Westwood, Massachusetts. His wife, Maxine Scow Hegsted, predeceased him in 1998. Hegsted was survived by his son, Eric Hegsted, three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

From the guide to the D. Mark Hegsted papers, 1952-1999 (inclusive), 1960-1978 (bulk)., (Center for the History of Medicine. Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.)


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  • Nutrition--Societies, etc
  • Malnutrition


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