Dennis Savaiano


Educational Background

  • B.A., Biology at Claremont McKenna College Claremont, CA in 1975
  • M.S., Nutrition at University of California at Davis in 1977
  • Ph.D., Nutrition at University of California at Davis in 1980

Awards & Honors

  • Virginia Claypool Meredith Professor of Nutrition Policy, 2013 - Present
  • Pew National Nutrition Faculty Scholar, 1989 - 1990
  • Proctor and Gamble Research Fellow, 1979 - 1980
  • Foods and Nutrition Hall of Fame, 2010
  • Internationalization Award, Purdue University, 2009
  • Gamma Sigma Delta, 1995
  • USDA/ESCOP Leadership Development Program, 1993
  • CIC Leadership Development Program, 1993
  • NIH FIRST Award, 1984

Activities & Memberships

  • Director, Purdue CTSI Clinical Research Center
  • Director, Connections IN Health CTSI/ISDH Health Coalition Development Program
  • Associate Director, Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute Community Health Partnerships, 2011 - Present
  • Administrative Advisor, USDA Regional Research Project NC 1028: Promoting healthful eating to prevent excessive weight gain in young adults. Previously NC219, NC1193, 1994 - Present
  • Director, North Central Nutrition Education Center for Excellence, a USDA NIFA-funded center, 2014 - 2018
  • Interim Dean, Honors College, Purdue University, 2011 - 2013
  • Associate Provost, Purdue University, 2010 - 2011
  • BOHS Representative, Board on Agriculture Farm Bill Committee, 2009 - 2010
  • Dean, College of Consumer and Family Sciences, Purdue Univeristy, 1995 - 2010
  • Member (Executive Committee 2005-10, Research Chair, 2002-5, Chair, 2006-8), Board on Human Sciences, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, 1995 - 2010
  • BOHS Representative (CREATE-21 USDA reorganization committee), APLU , 2007 - 2009
  • Board of Directors, Indiana Youth Institute, 1999 - 2005
  • Member, Minnesota Nutrition Council, 1980 - 1995
  • Member, Indiana Nutrition Council, 2014 - Present
  • Member, Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2014 - Present
  • Planning Committee and Speaker, NIH Consensus Conference on Lactose Intolerance, 2010
  • Fellow, American College of Nutrition, 2000 - Present
  • Member, American Dairy Science Association, 1984 - Present
  • Member, Institute of Food Technologists, 1980 - Present
  • Member (former chair, graduate education committee), American Society for Nutritional Sciences, 1976 - Present


Dennis Savaiano is Director of the Connections IN Health/Indiana State Department of Health Coalition Development Program.  He oversees staff dedicated to statewide and local health coalition development focused on chronic disease treatment and prevention.  He is also Associate Director for the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute Community Health Partnerships. In this capacity, his goal is to build community research partnerships utilizing the extensive intellectual resource base of Indiana University and Purdue University. Savaiano has worked with the CTSI CHeP to increase its Community Advisory Council membership and assist with building community-engaged research approaches with Purdue Extension. He has published on school community interventions focused on improving the diets of young women, health coalition assessment, food policy, and has led/developed many of the successful Purdue Extension efforts focused around health as dean of Purdue's School of Consumer and Family Sciences for 15 years.

Professor Savaiano has also studied lactose digestion for the past four decades. Adequate calcium intake in the US diet depends on dairy food consumption. Dairy foods account for approximately 3/4 of the calcium consumed in the US diet. Approximately 1/4 of the US population and 3/4 of the World population maldigests lactose, due to a genetically controlled loss of intestinal lactase activity post weaning. Among this population of maldigesters, dairy food consumption is often limited due to perceived and real symptoms resulting from intake.

His research group has studied numerous factors which influence lactose digestion and tolerance including lactose load, gastric and intestinal transit, the use of lactose digestive aids, colon fermentation of lactose and the consumption of fermented dairy foods and lactic acid bacteria. Major findings from these studies include: (1) The identification of a microbial lactase in yogurts that assists lactose digestion in the intestinal tract following the consumption of yogurt. (2) The characterization of the amount of lactose required to cause symptoms in lactose maldigesters, being 12g or more of lactose (one cup of milk). (3) The finding that lactose consumed with a meal is tolerated about 3 times better than lactose consumed in a fasted state. (4) Identifying the colonic flora as key in determining tolerance to lactose. The colonic flora readily adapts to lactose in the diet of maldigesters. Thus, maldigesters who routinely consume lactose have less symptoms due to more efficient metabolism of lactose by the colon microflora. (5) The identification of a population of digesters and maldigesters who believe that they are extremely intolerant to lactose, but who tolerate lactose quite well in double-blinded clinical trials. (6) The characterization of the ability of lactic acid bacteria including acidophilus and bifidus to improve lactose digestion in vivo in the gastro-intestinal system.

The results of these studies indicate that almost all maldigesters can consume significant amounts of dairy foods without experiencing symptoms of intolerance. 

Discovery Publications (recent and key)

  • Katare B, Lynch KL, Savaiano DA. 2020. Perceived Neighborhood Food Environment and Overweight and Obesity among SNAP-Ed Participants in the Midwest United States. Public Health Nutr. In press.
  • Chey WD, Sandborn WJ, Ritter AJ, Foyt H, Azcarate-Peril MA, Savaiano DA. 2020. Galacto-Oligosaccharide RP-G28 Improves Multiple Clinical Outcomes in Lactose Intolerant Patients. Nutrients, 12, 1058; doi:10.3390/nu12041058.
  • Jansson-Knodell CL, Krajicek EJ, Savaiano DA, Shin AS. 2020. Lactose Intolerance: A Concise Review to Skim the Surface. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. In press.
  • Bergia RE, Jun S, Byers A, Savaiano DA. 2020. Leveraging a SNAP Overhaul into Comprehensive Home Nutrition Support for Older Adults. Nutrition Today. January/February 55:1:30-37. DOI: 10.1097/NT.0000000000000395.
  • Ken-Opurum J, Darbishire L, Miller D, Savaiano DA. 2020. Assessing rural health coalitions using the public health logic model: a systematic review. Am J Prev Med 2020;58(6):864-878.
  • Savaiano DA, Hutkins RW. 2020. Yogurt, cultured fermented milk, and health: a systematic review, Nutrition Reviews, nuaa013,
  • Wiese GN, Ramakrishnan M, Clark CT, Savaiano DA. 2020. Incentivizing Fruits and Vegetables in the Farm Bill. Nutrition Today. In press.
  • Salazar TMB, Darbishire LC, Chung MMS, Esler GCE, Liu AC, Savaiano DA. 2020.
  • GMOs Can be Organic. Nutrition Today. In press.
  • Ken-Opurum J, Lynch K, Vandergraff D, Miller D, Savaiano D. 2019. A mixed-methods evaluation using effectiveness perception surveys, social network analysis, and county-level health statistics: a pilot study of eight rural Indiana community health coalitions. Evaluation and Program Planning 77 101709.
  • Lapides RA, Savaiano DA. 2018. Gender, age, race and lactose intolerance: Is there evidence to support a differential symptom response? A scoping review. Nutrients, 10(12), 1956; DOI:10.3390/NU10121956.
  • Dolick KN, Pham LD, Mendes C de Oliveira G, Savaiano DA. 2018.  Organic Labelling Policy. Nutr Today. May/June – 53:3:121-4.
  • Mansfield JL, Lynch KL, Savaiano DA. 2018.  Collaboration Challenges and Opportunities: A Survey of School Foodservice Directors and Community Health Coalition Members. J School Health. 88:7:481-492.


    Lee Y, Savaiano DA, McCabe GP, Pottenger F, Welshimer K, Weaver CM, McCabe LD, Novotny R, Read M, Going S, Mason A, Van Loan MD, Boushey CJ.  2018.  Behavioral intervention in adolescents improves bone mass; yet lactose maldigestion is a barrier. Nutrients. 10:421.
  • Jun S, Thuppal S, Maulding MK, Eicher-Miller HA, Savaiano DA, Bailey RL.  2018.  Poor Dietary Guidelines Compliance among Low-income Women eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education (SNAP-Ed). Nutrients, 10(3), 327.


    Ragland R, Mansfield JL, Savaiano DA.  2018.  A Universal Label for GMOs. Nutr Today. 53:1:40-46.
  • Oshiro J, Adyatni I, O’Connor L, Savaiano DA.  2018.  Sustainable Eating Patterns Should be Part of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Nutr Today. 53:2:79-84.


    Savaiano DA, Lynch KL, Vandergraff DJ, Wiehe SE, Staten LK, Miller DK.  (2017)  The Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute's Community Health Partnership and Purdue Cooperative Extension Collaboration in Indiana:  An innovative, generalizable, state-wide model to help communities build a culture of health.  J Clin Transl Sci  1:202-205.
  • Rivera RK, Dunne J, Maudling MK, Wang Q, Savaiano DA, Nickols-Richardson SM, Eicher-Miller HA.  (2017)  Exploring the association of urban or rural county status and environmental, nutrition, and lifestyle-related resources with the efficacy of SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education) to improve food security.  Public Health Nutr.    doi:10.1017/S1368980017003391
  • Azcarate-Peril MA, Ritter A, Savaiano DA, Monteagudo-Mera A, Anderson C, Magness ST, Klaenhammer TR.  (2017)  Impact of short-chain galactooligosaccharides on the gut microbiome of lactose intolerant individuals.  PNAS  114:E367-E375.
  • Mansfield JL, Savaiano DA.  (2017)  Effect of school wellness policies and the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act on food-consumption behaviors of students, 2006-2016:  A systematic Review.  Nutr Rev.  75:533-552.
  • Dilk A, Savaiano DA.  (2017)  Sugar price supports and taxation:  A public health policy paradox.  Nutr Today.  52:143-150.
  • Mansfield J, Savaiano DA.  (2016)  The effect of school lunch interventions and policy changes on student food behavior 2006-2016:  A systematic review.  J Nutr Ed Behav.  49:S65.
  • O'Connor LE, Eaton TK, Savaiano DA.  (2015)  Improving milk intake in milk-averse lactose digesters and maldigesters.  J Nutr Ed Behav.   47:325-330.
  • Fialkowski MK, Ettienne R, Shvetsov YB, Rivera RL, Van Loan MD, Savaiano DA, Boushey CJ. (2015) Ethnicity and Acculturation: Do they predict weight status in a longitudinal study among Asian, Hispanic, and non-Hispanic white early adolescent females? Adolesc Health Med Ther. 5:1-7.
  • Savaiano DA. (2014) Lactose digestion from yogurt: mechanism and relevance. Amer J Clin Nutr. 99(6):1251S-5S.
  • Brown ON, O'Connor LE, Savaiano DA. (2014) Mobile MyPlate: A pilot study using text messaging to provide nutrition education and promote better dietary choices in college students. J Amer Coll Health. 62(5):320-7.
  • Ritter AJ, Savaiano DA. (2013) Using Galacto-Oligosaccharides to Improve Lactose Tolerance. Food Technology. 67(10)
  • Savaiano DA, Ritter AJ, Klaenhammer TR, Gareth J, Longcore AT, Chandler JR, Walker WA, Foyt HL. (2013) Improving lactose digestion and symptoms of lactose intolerance with a novel galacto-oligosaccharide (RP-G28): a randomized, double-blind clinical trial. Nutrition J. 12:160.
  • Marrero DG, Hardwick EJ, Staten LK, Savaiano DA, Odell JD, Comer KF, Saha C. (2013) Promotion and tenure for community engaged research: An examination of promotion and tenure support from community engaged research at three universities collaborating through a Clinical and Translational Sciences Award. Clinical and Translational Sci. 6(3):204-8. PMC3852909.
  • Osborne DL, Weaver CM, McCabe LD, McCabe GM, Novotny R, Van Loan MD, Going S, Matkovic V, Boushey CJ, Savaiano DA, ACT research team. (2012) Body size and pubertal development explain ethnic differences in structural geometry at the femur in Asian, Hispanic, and white early adolescent girls living in the U.S.. Bone. 51(5):888-95. PCM3491564.
  • Osborne, D., Weaver, C., McCabe, L., McCabe, G., Novotny, R., Boushey, C., and Savaiano, D. (2011) A pilot study to evaluate the relationship between skin pigmentation and measures of skeletal integrity in adolescent females living in Hawaii. Amer J Hum Biol. 23:470-8.
  • Osborne, D.L., Weaver, C.M., McCabe, L.D., McCabe, G.M., Novotny, R., Boushey, C., and Savaiano, D.A. (2011) Tanning predicts bone mass but not structure in adolescent females living in Hawaii. Am J Hum Biol. 23(4):470-8.
  • Matlik, L., Savaiano, D., McCabe, G., VanLoan, M., Blue, C.L., and Boushey, C. (2007) Perceived milk intolerance is related to bone content in 10-13 year old female adolescents. Pediatrics. 120(3):E669-E677.
  • Weaver, C.M., McCabe, L.D., McCabe, G.P., Novotny, R., Van Loan, M., Going, S., Matkovic, V., Boushey, C., Savaiano, D., and ACT research team. (2007) Bone mineral and predictors of bone mass in White, Hispanic, and Asian early pubertal girls. Calcif Tissue Int. 81(5):352-63.
  • Savaiano, D.A., Boushey, C.J., and McCabe, G.P. (2006) Lactose Intolerance Symptoms Assessed by Meta-Analysis: A Grain of Truth That Leads to Exaggeration. J Nutr. 136:1-7.
  • Pribila, B.A., Hertzler, S.R., Martin, B.R., Weaver, C.M., and Savaiano, D. (2000) Lactose digestion and tolerance among African-American adolescent girls fed a dairy-rich diet. J Am Diet Assoc. 100:524-528.
  • Hertzler, S.R., Savaiano, D.A., and Levitt, M.D. (1997) Fecal Hydrogen Production and Consumption Measurements: Response to Daily Lactose Ingestion by Lactose Maldigesters. Dig Dis Sci. 42(2):348-353.
  • Suarez, F.L., Savaiano, D.A., and Levitt, M.D. (1997) Tolerance to the daily ingestion of two cups of milk by individuals claiming lactose intolerance. Am J Clin Nutr. 65:1502-1506.
  • Jiang, T. and Savaiano, D.A. (1997) In Vitro Lactose Fermentation by Human Colonic Bacteria is Modified by Lactobacillus acidophilus Supplementation. J Nutr. 127(8):1489-1495.
  • Mustapha, A., Jiang, T., and Savaiano, D.A. (1997) Improvement of Lactose Digestion by Humans Following Ingestion of Unfermented Acidphilus Milk: Influence of Bile Sensitivity, Lactose Transport, and Acid Tolerance of Lactobacillus acidophilus. J Dairy Science. 80(8):1537-1545.
  • Jiang, T., and Savaiano, D.A. (1997) Modification of colonic fermentation by bifidobacteria and pH in vitro: Impact on lactose metabolism, short-chain fatty acid and lactate production. Dig Dis Sci. 42(11):2370-2377.
  • Hertzler, S.R., Huynh, Bao-Chau, L., and Savaiano, D.A. (1996) How much lactose is low lactose?. J Am Diet Assoc. 96:243-246.
  • Hertzler, S. and Savaiano, D.A. (1996) Colonic adaptation to daily lactose feeding in lactose maldigesters reduces lactose intolerance. Am J Clin Nutr. 64:232-36.
  • Ritter AJ, Savaiano DA, Barnes D, Klaenhammer TD. Prebiotic formulations and methods of use. Patents. US 9,808,481 2017, US 9,774,860 2017, US 9,592,248 2017, US 9,579,340 2017, US 9,370,532 2016, SG 2014014435 2014, US 8,785,160 B2 2014, UK GB 2480042 2014, US 8,486,668 B2 2013, US 8,492,124 B2 2013.


Food Policy and Nutrition NUTR 59000 We explore the nature of contemporary United States food policy and key events throughout history that have shaped what it is today. We investigate and discuss the roles individuals, corporations, and federal, state, and other government agencies play in creating food policy, and how these stakeholders as well as complex sociological and economic factors influence the way Americans eat. These questions will lead us to consider the future of food and food policy in the United States. Can Americans develop food policy that supports the agricultural economy AND promotes the consumption of healthy foods? Could our agricultural system support this? We learn about and explore these questions with class discussions, debate, research, guest lectures, relevant documentary films, and thought-provoking readings that present a variety of viewpoints. You will explore current, real-life problems and have an opportunity to develop potential solutions.
World Food Problems NUTR 53200 The goal of this course is to educate advanced undergraduate and graduate students on the multi-disciplinary challenges that exist in meeting food and nutrition needs of a growing world population. The course aims to instill an appreciation of the importance of economics, food production and technology, trade, culture, communication, political processes and institutions, demography and related factors in determining adequate food availability and health globally. The end point for this multi-disciplinary perspective is nutritional adequacy, and much of the focus will be on factors that can prevent or limit malnutrition (both under and over nutrition) world-wide. The course is collaboration between departments in the Colleges of Agriculture, Health and Human Sciences, and Liberal Arts.

Dennis Savaiano

Virginia Claypool Meredith Professor of Nutrition Policy

Office: STON 204
Phone: 765.427.7826
Fax: 765.494.0674
Web site

Department of Nutrition Science, 700 W. State Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2059(765) 494-8228, Fax: (765) 494-0674

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