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by Avik Chatterjee, MD

When I first met him, Mr. Smith had just moved into a motel room re-purposed as a homeless shelter, with his four children. He was anxious and distracted, his eyes darting from me to the door, to the children’s clothes folded up on the bed.

“This morning I had to get my kids to school, meet with my housing worker, figure out why MassHealth won’t accept my application, and to top it all off, I know my blood pressure and blood sugar are out of control. Doc, I won’t lie to you, life’s been so difficult this past year, I haven’t taken my medications at all.”


 
 
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The FDA recently released two new regulations that provide instructions to restaurants, grocery stores, vending machines and other food establishments for how they will have to comply with the law compelling them to post calories on menus. The idea motivating this law and regulations is that if consumers are aware of the calories of their purchases, they may make lower calorie choices. Is this true? Does the posting of calories or other nutritional information affect consumer choice? And if so, does the nature of the posted information make a difference? 

 
 
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by Lauren Fiechtner, MD


As mammals we have two different types of fat tissue: white and brown. White fat stores energy and plays a role in how full we feel. Brown fat helps regulate the body’s temperature by releasing heat. In mice brown fat has been linked to improved insulin sensitivity and decreased body weight. In humans brown fat has been associated with lower BMI. So we think brown fat is healthier and more efficient than white fat.

 
 
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by Kristina Lewis, MD


Ask 10 friends or patients who have successfully dieted in the past year what their strategies were, and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. With choices ranging from Atkins and Ornish to the dubious blood type diet, there are so many unique weight loss strategies available that it is difficult to keep track of them all. Despite the cornucopia of options for weight loss, it turns out that the secret to long-term weight loss maintenance involves far less variety. Keeping weight off is not about jumping on board with the latest trend. It has more to do with making some simple changes and sticking with them for the long haul. As it turns out, when thinking about how to keep weight off, “boring” may be the best strategy.

 
 
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by Marie-France, MD


NIH funding is declining, leading to less support for large observational cohort studies. Over the last several decades, these types of studies have allowed us to understand determinants of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. But, does opportunity knock for a new paradigm of cohort study? This is the bet that the Health eHeart Study is taking.

 
 
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by Matt Gillman, MD, SM


I’ve just returned from a week in South China. This trip was driven in part by the question of why China, along with India and other Asian countries, are hot spots for 21st century diabetes.  By 2030, ½ billion people on the planet will have type 2 diabetes. The majority will be in Asia. 

 
 
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by Stephanie Linakis, MPH


In late 2010, Congress passed a law requiring restaurant chains with 20 or more locations to post calorie content on their menus and menu boards. The law was a provision in the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), and was driven by the belief that individuals might consume excess calories when they are eating restaurant meals because of limited awareness of the calorie content. Since I manage a study that is investigating the impact of menu labeling at six chain fast-food restaurants in New England, I was particularly intrigued by a recent talk by Dr. Lorien Urban regarding restaurants exempt from the law.

 
 
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by Chelsea Jenter, MPH


Your thoughts, beliefs, and expectations about what you are eating may actually influence how your body processes food. The idea that weight loss is just a numbers game – calories in versus calories out – may not be as simple as we once believed. Previous blog posts by Stephanie Linakis and Avik Chatterjee refer to the challenges and complexity of diets and food choices. A 2011 study in Health Psychology further complicates things by suggesting that your mindset about the food you are eating can influence how full or hungry you are after you eat it.