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You probably know that the portion sizes served at restaurants and fast-food chains have drastically increased over the years, but did you realize that even the dinner plates we use at home have gotten bigger?
This was just one of the surprising facts that BWH Nutrition Director Kathy McManus, MS, RD, divulged to the Roxbury community at the first BWH Community Learning Network event last month. She also discussed research findings related to nutrition and weight management, and shared tips on how to reduce one’s risk for diabetes, choose healthy fats and understand the difference between whole grains and refined carbohydrates.
The BWH Community Learning Network is a joint effort between BWH’s Center for Community Health and Health Equity (CCHHE) and the Biomedical Research Institute. It is a free series designed to encourage dialogue between Brigham researchers and community members about research findings and health news that can be applied to daily life. BWH’s Department of Nutrition and the Roxbury Community Alliance for Health were co-sponsors of the November event. McManus drew her tips from many studies from the past 40 years, including the observational Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professional Follow-Up Study, and randomized clinical control studies, Diet Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) and OMNI Heart.
“This series is about sharing information to facilitate research translation; it’s about having a conversation with our community about important health topics and new research that impacts their daily lives and the lives of their families,” said Cheryl Clark, MD, ScD, director of Health Equity Research and Intervention for CCHHE. “It is a chance for all of us become more deeply engaged and learn from each other so that our work reflects the priorities of the communities we serve.”
Prostate cancer will be a topic of an upcoming event.
Roughly 50 people attended the lively discussion at the Whittier Street Health Center, some with young children in tow. Throughout McManus’ presentation, community members asked questions and traded laughs in the relaxed setting. During one segment, McManus showed images of the serving size of bagels, burgers, pasta dishes and other foods from 20 years ago and their counterpart serving sizes today. Community members guessed the calorie count of today’s “supersized” servings, some gasping when McManus revealed the numbers.
“There are easy steps we all can take to reduce our risk of disease,” said McManus. “This includes watching our weight, how much and what types of fat we eat, increasing our consumption of fruits and veggies, limiting alcohol and salt, and much more.”
Other tips shared throughout the night included packing leftovers right away instead of leaving them on the kitchen table or counter during dinner, drinking water before a meal and reducing the amount of white bread and rice, potatoes, candy, cakes and sugary drinks in our diets.
“Take a look at where you are now,” McManus said. “Small steps and moderation are the best strategies you can use.”
The question-and-answer session following McManus’ presentation was just as energetic. Residents voiced thoughtful concerns about everything from food prices and accessibility to artificial sweeteners and diet soda.
“I came tonight to learn more about nutrition and how I can get my blood pressure under control,” said Tieteasha Adderley, of Roxbury Crossing, after the event. “I was recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes. This was really helpful. I will definitely come back.”
The next Community Learning Network event is being planned for spring 2013. More information is forthcoming. If you are interested in presenting your research at a future event, please contact the Center for Community Health and Health Equity at firstname.lastname@example.org.