The DASH Diet was originally designed to treat and prevent high blood pressure, but research continually proved it to be an effective, easy-to-follow eating pattern that promotes overall health and longevity. Many physicians and other health professionals recommend DASH to patients as preventative care.
Dr. Catherine Champagne recalls driving down Perkins Road in the 1980s while LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center was in its construction phase.
“I remember bringing my kids to kindergarten, thinking, ‘I’d really like to work there someday,’” she recalled.
Dr. Champagne is a registered dietitian nutritionist with a PhD in nutrition. Her expertise in dietary counseling, dietary intake assessment, and nutrition related to chronic disease led her to develop the DASH Diet in 1993.
You may have heard of the diet – it’s been ranked the world’s healthiest diet by U.S. News & World Report for eight years running. Often prescribed as a remedy to high blood pressure, the diet’s official name is Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.
DASH is only one highlight of Champagne’s career. Born and raised in South Louisiana, Champagne always had a strong appreciation for home-cooked food, but her interest was heightened when she decided to pursue a Master of Science in dietetics.
“I started becoming more interested in how food affects the body,” Champagne said. “All too often we eat things and we have no idea what they’re doing on the inside.”
Dr. Champagne joined Pennington Biomedical in December 1989 to work on a series of projects involving military nutrition.
Nearly 30 years later, she still works closely with the U.S. Department of Defense but her research has expanded to different facets of nutrition. In addition to DASH and various military diets, Dr. Champagne also designed the meal plans for several other large-scale studies. Those include DELTA (Dietary Effects on Lipoproteins and Thrombogenic Activity), POUNDS Lost (Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies), the Diabetes Prevention Program, and Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes).
Today, Dr. Champagne works with the Louisiana Department of Education to ensure proper nutrition in public schools throughout the state. The Louisiana Fit Kids project includes training for school health professionals, school meal guidelines, and a review of school nutrition practices every three years.
"This project is so important because our schoolchildren are our future,” Champagne said. “This is just one of many things Pennington offers our state in terms of proper health and nutrition education.”
Approaching 30 years at Pennington Biomedical, Dr. Champagne still feels fulfilled by her work.
“I could retire today if I wanted to,” she said. “But I don’t. I still wake up excited every morning to come to work. I work more than 40 hours a week and I do volunteer activities related to my job because I know I’m making a difference.”
This blog post was originally written for LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center and published on the center’s blog, Making an Impact. If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, visit Pennington Biomedical’s website to view current studies. You can screen online to see if any studies are a good match for you.
About the F-Word
"Food" is the F-word. And the F-Word blog is all about helping you find your food-life balance. After battling an unhealthy relationship with food and body image for years, I'm dedicated to helping others avoid those misfortunes. Read on for nutrition guidance, lifestyle tips and stories from other bad-ass people who also overcame disordered eating.