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Faculty & Staff

Take Your Nutrition News with a Grain of Salt

In the past few days, news of a recent study praising the health benefits of a low-carb diet has spread like wildfire through headlines and across the Internet.  Good Morning America featured a segment entitled, “Low-Carb May Trump Low-Fat in Diet Wars” and urged listeners to “back away from the bagel” if they were watching their figures.  TIME magazine exclaimed, “If you’re trying to lose weight, fat might be your friend” and was joined in the lipid lauding frenzy by National Public Radio whose online article leads with “Turns out, eating foods with fat…doesn’t make us fat.”  The New York Times, where I and many other students I know turn for breaking news, issued “A Call for a Low-Carb Diet” and it quickly became the most emailed story on the day of its publication.  But before we as readers get too caught up by these attention-grabbing statements, it’s important to investigate what’s really lying beneath the headlines. 

 

To start, I’ll summarize my take-aways after reading the New York Times article on this breaking nutrition news.  The article presented the findings of a study published in the September 2014 volume of the Annals of Internal Medicine and funded by the National Institutes of Health – already, this is sounding highly credible with such big names on board.  The study looked at a “racially diverse group of 150 men and women” (yay for generalizability!) who were split into two groups that each received different dietary guidelines.  The low-fat group was instructed to limit their total fat intake to less than 30% of their daily calories as recommended by the federal government guidelines – seems reasonable.  The low-carb/high-fat group upped their fat intake to more than 40% of their daily calories and were told to eat mostly foods like fish, olive oil, nuts, cheese, and red meat.  Both were encouraged to eat veggies and neither group had to watch their calories nor change levels of physical activity.  At the end of a year, the low-carb group lost an average of eight pounds more than the low-fat group, had greater reductions in body fat and greater increases in lean muscle mass, and significantly lowered their heart attack risk.  Seems simple, sign me up!  I can lose weight, build muscle, and have a healthy heart just by eating my eggs and bacon, no exercise or calorie counting required. 

 

Now before you order up that next cheeseburger without its bun, it’s important to step back from the media and critically assess what the research is really telling us.  David L. Katz, a doctor and director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center, published an insightful response article to the low-carb craze headlines, bringing to light some crucial caveats of the study that nearly all news articles are glossing over.  First, not all fats or carbohydrates are created equal so it’s inaccurate and counterproductive to talk about diets in such umbrella terms like low-fat or low-carb.  Secondly, it needs to be known that all study participants had BMIs categorizing them as obese, making the results not nearly as generalizable as they have been portrayed.  Lastly, the true diet conditions for the low-carb and low-fat groups in the study have been very poorly communicated to the public.  Comparing the diet guidelines given in the study with the participants’ pre-study diets reveals that the low-fat group only reduced fat intake by 5%, while the low-carb group reduced carbohydrate intake by nearly 75%.  In light of this evidence, it makes sense that the much more restrictive diet would result in greater weight loss. 

 

To conclude, Katz leads us away from the trendy diet fads and recommends eating whole foods in sensible quantities.  He also recommends that we approach health headlines with a more careful eye to see past the sensationalism that can make a good story, but not the best lifestyle advice.  It’s important to be aware that not all of the facts surrounding a research study’s methods and findings make their way into the media’s presentations.  But, that doesn’t mean that we need to write off all health and wellness news as nonsense – if a headline does make your head turn, dig a little deeper, seek out more details from primary sources, and look at what other experts and critical voices in the field have to say.  With a little extra effort, you’ll find the news that’s really worth your attention.      

 

Note of Interest: A few days after this initial media firestorm, the New York Times re-published the article with a new headline, “A Call for a Low-Carb Diet that Embraces Fat.”   

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The Inevitable Adventures of the Day

Hey Dukies! I'm back in the Dirty D and it feels so good. As one of the few juniors who has remained in Durham for the Fall, I have to say that I'm pumped to be part of the elite few who elected for “Duke in Durham” this semester.

This past summer, I lived in rural Nepal for 3 months working for the United Nations. Though Duke was instrumental in giving me that experience, the experience itself was largely Duke-less. I woke up most mornings wondering how I, on my own, was going to navigate the inevitable adventures of the day. (Care for the details? I blogged there, too. Here's the link: http://thelifeperipatetic.tumblr.com) And though this past summer was one of the most rewarding of my life, I'm glad I'm back at Duke. Because I've realized, to tweak that familiar saying, that you can take the Duke student out of Duke, but you can't (by the time she's a rising junior) take Duke out of the student.

I'm still trying to figure out why. Maybe some people would argue that it's due to the trauma of successive mid-term seasons. But I have a few other ideas... Like the fact that more and more, you realize that the people you find yourself missing are the ones not from your home state, but from the Gothic Wonderland. It is because you get up at 1:45am Nepali time to watch the World Cup finals live, because you're craving some stadium spirit that rivals Duke's. It is getting off the plane into the US after months abroad, and realizing that you want your first meal to be the baked oatmeal from the Div Cafe. Nothing else will do.

Bottom line—my months away from Duke (and Duke's people) has helped me appreciate and admit my attachment to this place. This blog is one way to try and do that attachment justice. So, if you're interested for another year of my (attempted) witticisms, observations, and reflections, stay tuned!

Thanks for reading.

Elizabeth

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Student Health Closed on 9/1

The Student Health Center will be closed on Monday, 9/1, in observance of the Labor Day holiday.

We will re-open with normal operating hours on Tuesday, 9/2, at 8:30am.

For after-hours care and nurse advice, please call 919-681-9355.

 
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Sweet Life Illuminated

Portland-based artist Carter Hubbard installed Sweet Life Illuminated in the Bryan Center this Monday. The visually striking and colorful "spoondelier", comprised of more than 9,000 discarded ice cream spoons from a local business, hangs just to the left of the main entrance to the Bryan Center.

"I'm very interested in processes, and how cognizant people are of their actions. I want them to do their research," said Hubbard. "I seek to know better the underlying, fundamental systems and their inherent motivations and effects, beneficial and detrimental."

Watching these spoons go quickly into the recycling bin as people tasted and ate flavors of ice cream, Hubbard knew there was an artistic opportunity here to create something beautiful and make a statement.

A collector at heart, Hubbard convinced the business to allow her to gather, sanitize and organize more than 38,000 discarded spoons over the course of a year. "I considered several ideas for what to do with the spoons, and this is the one that really made sense."

The final product combines multiple colors of spoons that not only catch the eye, but also start a conversation about the "opulence of our culture, and what it really takes" to create the ease we experience every day.

Hubbard plans to use the remaining spoons to create jewelry, and even has an idea for a dress decorated with spoons.

Read more about the artist: http://carterhubbard.com/

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