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It’s hard to go too long in today’s 24-hour news cycle without seeing headlines announcing the “latest scientific report” on weight loss, fad diets, or why the health trend of the moment is the best thing you never knew about. And as exciting as many of these news reports seem at first, these research headlines are often a sugar-coated version of the real story. And the outcomes of these studies may not even be the most important part.

 
 
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A lot of publicity has accompanied a recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine about how FTO, the most common “obesity gene,” works. What does it mean for obesity prevention and treatment?

 
 
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by John Paul Livingstone, BA


As a Research Assistant with Project Viva, a longitudinal birth cohort now in its 16th year, I traveled all over the country this summer to conduct study visits with participants who moved out of state. On more than one occasion, I found myself sitting in a hotel room because there was nowhere I could go easily on foot, something that I often take for granted living in Boston. One hotel desk clerk even advised that I take a cab instead of walking to the closest pharmacy — which was less than a quarter mile away — due to concerns about crossing the street.

 
 
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Losing weight these days can be a costly undertaking. Between finding affordable, healthful foods (or paying for meal replacement products), shelling out money for a gym membership, and in many cases, paying for medications to assist with weight management, patients can spend several thousand dollars before they’ve lost a pound. Well, folks, get ready to take out a second mortgage on your house, because a study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) has just debuted the Maserati of weight loss medications.

 
 
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by Jen Thompson, MPP


For the first few months of their lives, babies can’t do much. In the first video I filmed of my son, when he was three weeks old, he struggles for several minutes just to turn his head from one side to the other. Imagine my skepticism, then, when I learned about “baby-led weaning” or “BLW”. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you start giving your child solid “complimentary” foods, in addition to breast milk or formula, when he reaches 6 months of age. Instead of starting with “baby” food – rice cereal, fruit and vegetable purees – devotees of baby-led weaning call for feeding babies small pieces of “real” food, allowing babies to feed themselves.

 
 
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What feels like a food allergy, looks like a food allergy, but is NOT actually an allergy? The answer for me was mast cell activation syndrome, or MCAS. Two years ago, I marched myself to the doctor, convinced that I had an undiagnosed food allergy. I explained my symptoms—chronic hives and itching, intense facial flushing, gastrointestinal upset, headaches, and difficulty breathing out of my nose, especially after eating. After much discussion about my symptoms and medical history, my amazing allergist realized my symptoms for what they were—a mast cell disorder. I was diagnosed with mast cell activation syndrome; a newly recognized immune system disorder that normally takes an average of 10 years to accurately diagnose. Although MCAS is currently quite rare, experts estimate that it is actually very common, with many cases going undiagnosed.