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UC Berkeley Press Release

Obesity research detailed in new book

– Low fat or low carbohydrate? Small, frequent meals or just three meals a day? Sweetened beverages are out, but is fruit juice okay? What about energy density and portion sizes?

These controversial questions and more are addressed in "Obesity: Dietary and Developmental Influences," a new book from the University of California, Berkeley's Center for Weight and Health. It uses an evidence-based approach to shed light on what to eat and what not to eat in order to maintain a healthy weight.

As more and more research is being focused on determining the causes and cures of obesity, the authors set out to provide researchers, health practitioners and policy makers alike with the latest evidence about this modern-day epidemic and "an invaluable tool in their efforts to help curb obesity," said co-author Patricia Crawford, an adjunct professor at UC Berkeley and a registered dietitian who co-directs the Center for Weight and Health.

"The book presents the most comprehensive treatment of the subject matter to date," she added. "It also represents a critical step forward in the quest to identify actionable strategies to prevent obesity."

The book, recently published by Taylor & Francis CRC Press, covers the breadth of available evidence about the prevention of obesity and presents clear, evidence-based conclusions as well as thorough and objective discussions of the evidence. As a result, readers can accurately assess each factor's role in preventing obesity.

The book includes:

  • A synopsis of the diet most likely to protect against the development of obesity
  • The roles of growth and developmental periods in obesity development
  • The influence of parenting practices on children's weight
  • Information on the relationship between each aspect of dietary intake and obesity

In the book, the role of 26 different foods, beverages and eating behaviors as well as eight developmental periods in the human life cycle are described. The dietary factors examined include the macronutrients (the different types of carbohydrate, protein and fat), vitamins and minerals, specific types of foods and beverages, snack and meal patterns, portion size, parenting practices, breastfeeding and more. Each developmental period is examined in the context of the likelihood of obesity development. For each dietary factor and developmental period, four lines of evidence are examined: changes over time in dietary consumption and behaviors, plausible mechanisms, observational studies and prevention trials.

The book also contains 38 tables that summarize observational studies, 38 graphs depicting trends in dietary intake, and nine tables that summarize prevention trials. A synopsis of the latest research on obesity investigates all major lines of evidence and clarifies common misconceptions while identifying behaviors to target and the dietary factors that show the most promise for prevention.

Along with Crawford, the book was co-authored by three other researchers from the Center for Weight and Health: Gail Woodward-Lopez, associate director; Lorrene Davis Ritchie, associate researcher; and Dana E. Gerstein, associate academic specialist.

The Center for Weight and Health provides leadership for the development of science-based approaches to the prevention of obesity and related health problems with a focus on children and families. It fosters collaborations among researchers, service providers, policy-makers and members of diverse communities who are concerned about issues related to weight and health. Its Web site is at: http://nature.berkeley.edu/cwh/index.html