The January issue of Health Affairs features findings from an Emory University assessment of the effectiveness of real-world lifestyle interventions to help delay or prevent the costly chronic disease that affects nearly 26 million Americans.
The Emory team’s research found that weight loss was a primary intervention associated with reducing the progression to full blown type 2 diabetes, and concluded that the costs associated with diabetes prevention can be reduced without sacrificing effectiveness and that a focus on motivating participation in a structured lifestyle intervention program was the key driver of success in achieving the weight loss.
The Center for the Study of Human Health is offering multiple courses during the Spring 2012 semester to Emory University undergraduates interested in expanding their knowledge of health. In particular, three special topics courses are being offered, providing Emory students with unique access to information that may not typically be part of a traditional degree program. The descriptions for these three courses are provided below.
HLTH 385-000: Botanical Medicine and Health – Medical traditions based on botanical drug sources can be found in all human cultures and date back to prehistory. In this course, both ancient and modern day botanical traditions across many cultures will be discussed as they pertain to medicine. The pathways through which natural drugs are made by plants and how they affect humans will be the focus of this class. Some examples include botanical drugs for infectious disease, cancer, cardiovascular health, dental health, central nervous system function, and much more. By the end of this course, you will have a solid understanding of the major botanical drugs, including their sources, applications, and cultural relevance.
HLTH 385-001: Food, Health and Society – Human health is intrinsically linked to dietary practices. Plants, in particular, may be used both as medicine and food, and it can often be difficult to draw a line between the two groups: food may be used as medicine and vice versa. The lens of ethnopharmacology can be used to gain an integrated biocultural perspective on foods, encompassing not only the substantive (or physical) qualities, but also the intangible (symbolic). In this course, we will explore the ways that human groups identify, collect, create, and transform foods, how they shape those into dietary behaviors, and how this influences human health. The pharmacological properties of foods will be examined and we will use case studies of dietary complexes, such as the Mediterranean diet, in order to better understand the food-medicine continuum as a determinant of health and well-being.
HLTH 385-002: Contemporary Nutrition – The science of nutrition will be explored as it relates to individual food choices, health behaviors, and overall health, with topics including wellness, obesity, eating disorders, sports nutrition, and predictive health. Nutrients and nutritional needs will be addressed in a conventional and functional approach, covering core concepts such as macronutrients, vitamins and minerals, nutrition and health, and supplements. Additionally, we will discuss current controversies in nutrition with regard to health and wellness.
For more information about these and other courses offered by the Center, please visit the Emory Course Atlas.
In a creative way, Dr. Mike Evans answers the question, “What is the single best thing we can do for our health?”. Dr. Evans, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of Toronto and physician at St. Michael’s Hospital, with an animation by Liisa Sorsa, says that exercise should be the first priority, with a goal of at least 30 minutes of activity per day. Dr. Evans draws on numerous findings both nationally and internationally that have highlighted the importance of physical activity for positive health changes. His primary message is simple: limit the number of hours you spend sitting and sleeping to 23 and 1/2, and use that final 30 minutes to benefit yourself.
The daily choices we make regarding food choice can have long term benefits for brain function. Findings released by the American Academy of Neurology indicate that among study participants averaging age 87, those who had diets richer in omega 3 fatty acids and in vitamins B, C, D, E performed better on mental thinking tests than those whose nutritional biomarkers indicated lower consumption. Additionally, those who reported consuming higher levels of trans fats (commonly found in fast foods and packaged products) showed more brain shrinkage than those eating less trans fats.
As you return back to campus, or if you are just beginning your journey through the University, you will once again face the question, “What’s for Lunch?” We are regularly reminded that our country is facing an obesity epidemic (see http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/ for more information), though we all struggle with making the “right choice.” Everyone’s nutritional needs are different, impacted by their exercise habits, food allergies/intolerances, age, and sex. Our choices are further impacted by our likes and dislikes, cultural history, and even our knowledge of cooking!
Here are Emory there are many things you can do to start the year off right. For example, keep healthy snacks on hand, eat breakfast to help prevent a crash mid-morning, and try new fruits and vegetables as you come across them to open up new exciting food options. A number of online resources are available to help you learn more about what it means to eat healthy.
ChooseMyPlate.gov, for example, provides an overview of government recommendations for nutrition, including how to read food labels, how to portion your plate wisely (50% fruits and veggies, 25% protein, and 25% whole grains with a side of dairy at each meal), and tools to help you assess your diet.
MyBestHealthPortal.com recently featured a number of tips for college students with specific advice on how to make healthier choices when facing the open-ended buffet that is the dining hall.