Harvard School of Public Health faculty and other researchers across Harvard University have been at the forefront of efforts to understand and target the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes. A March 7, 2012 Harvard Gazette article highlights the groundbreaking work being conducted by Professors Walter Willett and Frank Hu and their colleagues.
Drawing on data from three long-running studies of lifestyle and health covering nearly 300,000 people, nutrition epidemiologists at the School have released numerous findings on the importance of a healthy diet and what that looks like, including the risks of consuming processed meats and sugary beverages and the benefits of eating whole grains and healthy fats.
Willett and colleagues published the first study to document the connection between excess weight and diabetes. They found that even a few extra pounds can increase diabetes risk, particularly among people with a genetic predisposition to the disease. The good news is that studies have also shown that keeping a healthy weight — a body mass index less than 25 — reduces the risk of diabetes by 90%.
“Apart from lung cancer, there is no other disease that can be almost eliminated with simple lifestyle changes,” Willett told the Gazette.