Keep Calm and Eat Well
Bernadette Pergrin Marriott ’70 studies up on healthy eating
by Benjamin Gleisser

Whether dealing with primates or Army privates, Bernadette Pergrin Marriott ’70 has spent most of her adult life studying how different foods and their nutritional components affect her research subjects’ health.

Her studies took her to the jungles of Nepal and Panama, where she researched how baby monkeys learn what to eat, and to the National Academy of Medicine, where she recently chaired a workshop titled Understanding and Overcoming the Challenge of Obesity and Overweight in the Armed Forces.

Advising the military on how to keep soldiers fit — educating about key nutrients and the potential perils of consuming body-building supplements with undisclosed composition — is a vital mission for Marriott, professor emerita in the division of gastroenterology and hepatology and the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Bernadette Pergrin Marriott’s from Medical University of South Carolina
Photo: Medical University of South Carolina
Bernadette Pergrin Marriott’s interest in diet and health began at Bucknell.

“Soldiers, like everyone else in the world, have to work hard to maintain a healthy body weight,” she says. As the founding director of the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health, Marriott is also a proponent of properly supplementing our diets.

“Most people don’t obtain the recommended level of vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron and several vitamins from their diet,” she says, citing Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-20. “This is why taking multivitamin supplements is recommended.”

The pending results of her study of omega 3 fatty acid supplements on the cognitive performance of soldiers under stress could also have implications for the general public, she says.

As a Bucknell biology major, Marriott’s interest in nutrition began with a diet and immunology research project involving rats under Professor David Pearson, biology, and an animal behavior project with Professor Douglas Candland, psychology.

“My fascination with the monkeys in the laboratory led me to want to learn how they identified what plant foods were safe and nutritious to eat in natural settings,” she says. “Today, I continue to learn new things every day about how diet and health are interconnected in people.”