Picture





by Jen Thompson, MPH


Full disclosure: all of my colleagues refused to write a blog post on this topic.  “Ewww,” one said.  “I don’t feel comfortable writing about that,” said another.  Even when I pointed out that our department has written papers on very similar topics, they all declined.  So I decided to tackle it myself, because a) it’s a topic that applies to everyone who was ever born, b) is biologically very important and interesting, and c), I think it’s an excellent example of how the implications of a small but interesting scientific study can be misinterpreted, exaggerated, or distorted.

 
 
Picture
Oprah --  yes, THE Oprah -- recently made headline news with her $43 million dollar investment in the diet company Weight Watchers. She also announced that she is now actively participating in their famous “points” program. While I admire her for being so public with her weight struggles over the years, I started thinking about why some individuals spend half their lives trying to lose weight and keep it off, and others never count a calorie (or point or carb) in their entire life.

 
 
Picture





by Jen Thompson, MPP


Lately I’ve felt defensive when ordering food at restaurants.  “Can you let me know if this has any gluten in it? I have celiac disease,” I’ll say while silently whispering to myself: please believe me. Over the past few years, those of us with celiac disease – a genetic disorder in which the gluten protein found in wheat, rye, and barley triggers a damaging autoimmune response – have found ourselves in an awkward spot.  There’s now greater awareness than ever before of what gluten is, which foods contain it, and why people diagnosed with celiac disease need to scrupulously avoid it.  Yet eating gluten-free has also become a fad, with many people avoiding wheat without receiving a formal diagnosis. Some people self-diagnose themselves with “gluten sensitivity”, or a wheat allergy, or simply insist that they feel better when they avoid gluten.  Unfortunately, this has led to skepticism over gluten-free diets in general.

 
 
Picture
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.

 
 
Picture




by Renata Smith, MPH


What do Rob Gronkowski, Cindy Crawford, and newly crowned NBA champion Stephen Curry have in common? In addition to being famous celebrities, they are all part of Team FNV (Fruits ‘NVeggies), a new marketing campaign sponsored by the Partnership for a Healthier America. The campaign is seeking to market fruits and vegetables with the same tactics that companies use to advertise packaged foods. It is recruiting influential actors, athletes, and other celebrities to endorse fruits and vegetables as a product, much like the shoes, makeup, and other goods they normally promote.

 
 
Picture




by Renata Smith, MPH


Exposure to media and advertising has been linked to consumption of low-nutrient foods in children. The bulk of food advertising is for high-calorie, low-nutrient foods, such as sugary cereals, fast foods, candy, and soda. Traditional methods of advertising include television commercials, popular character licensing, and athlete endorsements. As technology advances, “new media” advertising on social media, mobile devices, and the Internet has also evolved. If you use Facebook, you may have noticed “sponsored posts” that now show up in your newsfeed (as a runner, I see targeted ads from race organizers, gear companies, etc., for example).

 
 
Picture




by Avik Chatterjee, MD


Low-fat, low-carb, Paleo, Zone, Atkins, South Beach, Weight Watchers—the list of named diets is long, and also lucrative. In 2013, Americans spent over $60 billion dollars on weight loss. But with such a dizzying array of options, how should consumers know how to choose the best among them? Unfortunately, the popular press, in search of a splashy headline, can mislead.