Joanne Lupton, Ph.D., retired Distinguished Professor, Regents Professor, University Faculty Fellow and William W. Allen Endowed Chair in Nutrition at Texas A&M University, died June 18.
Lupton was a nationally and internationally recognized leader in the field of nutrition as well as an inspiring educator who encouraged many young people to pursue careers in the advancement of nutrition and nutrition science.
“Dr. Lupton’s integrity, dedication, professionalism and generosity earned her respect and admiration of her colleagues, students and friends alike,” said Patrick Stover, Ph.D., vice chancellor of Texas A&M AgriLife, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research. “During her long and illustrious career in nutrition science, she also earned numerous research, teaching and service honors and awards. Her contributions have been numerous and deeply influential.”
Building a career
Lupton earned her bachelor’s degree from Mount Holyoke College and her doctorate in nutrition from the University of California, Davis. She came to Texas A&M in 1984 and was the founding chair of the nutrition faculty.
Lupton’s primary research for Texas A&M AgriLife was the effect of diet on the gastrointestinal tract, with an emphasis on fat and fiber and their influence on colon cancer. Her studies on the effect of dietary fiber on colon cancer and her work in public policy helped establish a Dietary Reference Intake, or DRI, value for dietary fiber.
Lupton helped bring nutrition science into the arena of public policy through her work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This included helping to establish dietary guidelines, determining dietary reference intake values, improving food labeling and helping translate DRI values into food values such as meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables.
A past president of the American Society for Nutrition, she served as an associate editor of the Journal of Nutrition from 1995 to 2005. She chaired the Panel on Dietary Reference Intakes for Macronutrients, generating the proposed definition of fiber in 2001. As chair of the DRI Committee, she consulted with experts in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, South Africa and throughout Europe to help establish a definition of dietary fiber and set up DRI values. She was also involved in establishing national nutritional guidelines, including the Food Guide Pyramid.
Because of her contributions to the National Academy of Sciences, Lupton was made a Lifetime Associate in 2002. She was a visiting scholar at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2003, when she helped develop an evidence-based system to evaluate health claims. She also served five years on the Nutrition Study Section for the National Institutes of Health.
Until 2008, Lupton led the National Space Biomedical Research Institute’s Nutrition, Physical Fitness and Rehabilitation Team. She served as the U.S. nutrition representative for the International Artificial Gravity Project, was an external advisor in formulating the NASA nutrition standards for space and was a member of the International Academy of Astronautics.
Lupton was named a member of the National Academy of Medicine, considered one of the highest honors in fields of health and medicine. She was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2009 and was appointed to the Board of the Institute of Medicine in 2011.
Mentoring the next generation
As a professor, Lupton mentored more than 50 graduate students at Texas A&M. She received the Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the Association of Former Students Distinguished Teaching Award, the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Research, and the Distinguished Achievement Award for Research. She has also been honored with the USDA’s National Award for Teaching, Southern Region.
Lupton also has received the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Research from Texas A&M, as well as the university’s Distinguished Achievement Award for Research.
“As an educator, Dr. Lupton touched the lives of countless students in the classroom and in her research laboratory, serving as a role model,” Stover said. “In the classroom, in the laboratory and through her work with many prestigious societies and organizations, she was a champion for the advancement of health.”
When Lupton retired from Texas A&M AgriLife in 2018, after 30 years on the faculty of the Department of Nutrition and Food Science of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, she was honored at an event held at the Annenberg Center on the Texas A&M campus.
Public memorial opportunities for Lupton are still tentative. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made for the development of a scholarship in her name by sending a check made payable to Texas A&M University to the Department of Nutrition and Food Science at MS 2253, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas 77843-2253.