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The Jean Mayer United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) at Tufts University is the largest research center in the world devoted to studying the role of nutrition in the prevention of age-related chronic and infectious diseases. The HNRCA is one of six human nutrition research centers in the United States supported by the Agriculture Research Services (ARS), the intramural research branch of the USDA.

The USDA/ARS and Tufts University entered into a cooperative agreement in 1979 to build a research center with the mission of exploring the relationship between nutrition, aging and health. The USDA/ARS owns the building, which houses 14 floors of active research, and provides annual core funding which in 2011 accounted for 45% of the total research budget.

In addition to the USDA, the HNRCA also partners with Tufts University. The Center was named for Jean Mayer, the former President of Tufts University and global nutrition leader. The Center resides on the Tufts health sciences campus and is uniquely positioned to contribute to both human nutrition and aging research and the life sciences leadership of the University. The Center’s 270 scientists, trainees, and staff are Tufts employees, with the exception of a few ARS researchers. Essentially, Tufts tenants conduct their work in a USDA building.

The HNRCA’s partnerships with the USDA and Tufts enable the study of nutrition’s impact on diseases from the cellular level to the population level in order to contribute to dietary recommendations and health policies. This translational capacity, made possible by these important partnerships, allows for collaborative and cross-disciplinary approaches to addressing complex public health problems.