It has been well documented that what we eat directly affects our health and risk of disease. Researchers have endeavored to understand how dietary habits and behaviors contribute to the risk or prevention of chronic diseases. The demographic diversity of the United States presents a uniquely complex task when attempting to understand consumption behaviors. What we eat may vary by where we reside, our ethnic or cultural background and our socioeconomic status. Time and again, research has focused on individual foods or nutrients to determine their association to population health outcomes, but this is not always realistic in practice because people do not consume individual foods or nutrients in isolation. The interrelationships between the different foods we consume are reflective of our lifestyles and specific to demographic customs. In population-based studies, diversity is often penalized or ignored for the sake of statistical power and interpretability. This limits the comprehension of dietary practices to the majority, overlooking key differences present in smaller, minority populations. In this talk, we will discuss statistical methods aimed to capture the dietary habits and behaviors in the United States. Using data obtained from large, multi-site studies on birth defects and migrant population health, we will demonstrate the application, impact and utility of these methods and discuss future directions to improve dietary pattern analysis in a continually diversifying population.
Each event in the Point/Counterpoint conversation series features an Amherst College professor and guests engaging in thoughtful discussion and attempting to bridge the growing ideological divide in our nation. Series information is available on the Amherst College website.
Join Professor Lawrence Douglas and environmentalist author Elizabeth Kolbert for a discussion on "Progressing Our Way to Mass Extinction?" Q&A will follow, and books will be available for purchase through Amherst Books.
Elizabeth Kolbert is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the 2019 recipient of the Pell Center Prize for Story in the Public Square. Her most recent book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, on mass extinctions past and present, began as an article for The New Yorker, was one of The New York Times' 10 Best Books of 2014, and won the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction in 2015.
Lawrence Douglas is a professor in the Amherst College Department of Law, Jurisprudence and Social Thought. He is the author of six books, including The Right Wrong Man: John Demjanjuk and the Last Great Nazi War Crimes Trial and the upcoming Will He Go?, a discussion of the potential legal implications of a refusal by President Trump to acknowledge electoral defeat in 2020.
This series is based on a course of the same name. The course and associated event series received special funding through a generous gift from 36 members of the 50th Reunion Class of 1970.