***This course has been closed to new registrants***
This self-paced mini-course consists of three online modules focusing on the links between nutrition, health, and disease:
- Dr. Walter Willett will present Dietary Quality and Chronic Disease Prevention.
- Dr. Frank Hu will present Curbing the Global Obesity Epidemic: From Science to Policy.
- Dr. Eric Rimm will present Popular Diets: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
Each module will include videos and short, interspersed quizzes that reinforce the main takeaways. Each module will take approximately 1.5–2 hours to complete, for a total program length of approximately five (5) hours.
To receive a certificate of completion from the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, you must complete all three modules, successfully score 75% or greater on each quiz, and complete the course evaluation. Registered dietitians can complete this course for five (5) continuing education credits.
Below are brief summaries of the materials addressed in each module to provide a better understanding of the information presented throughout the course. Please see the Before You Begin section for technical requirements and further details.
Dietary Quality and Chronic Disease Prevention
Presenter: Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School
In this module, Dr. Willett takes us back in time to review some of the most foundational nutritional epidemiology studies, and explains how our nutrition knowledge has been built up and evolved over time. Using data from the Nurses’ Health Study, the Nurses’ Health Study II, and the Health Professionals’ Follow-Up Study, as well as other publications, Dr. Willett dives into the specifics of the basic building blocks of nutrition, discussing the importance of consumption of high-quality dietary carbohydrates, fats, protein sources, fruits, and vegetables. Additionally, he explains the nuances of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, the quality of palm oil and coconut oil, and other debated topics in nutrition. Upon completion of this module, participants should be able to outline the foundations of a healthy diet, as well as describe the links between dietary quality and chronic disease such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer.
Curbing the Global Obesity Epidemic: From Science to Policy
Presenter: Frank Hu, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., Chair of Department of Nutrition, Fredrick J. Stare Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital
In this module, Dr. Hu discusses the global reach of the obesity epidemic, starting with its origins in the food environment in industrialized nations, to its spread to lower and middle-income countries. He also explains the etiology of obesity, ranging from biological, genetic, and developmental factors, to the policy level and environmental landscape. Furthermore, Dr. Hu discusses how we might counteract this global obesity epidemic through dietary guidelines, recommendations, and health-promoting policies. Upon completion of this module, participants should be able to discuss the various underlying risk factors for obesity, the causes of the global obesity epidemic, and potential strategies to reduce the global incidence and prevalence of obesity.
Popular Diets: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Presenter: Eric Rimm, Sc.D., Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and Director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, and Course Director for Evidence-based Optimal Nutrition: The Quest For Proof
In this module, Dr. Rimm takes us on a journey through the many fad diets promoted in the United States and elsewhere, and walks us through the evidence on each dietary pattern. He discusses the evidence in favor and against popular diets, including the low-fat diet, the low-carbohydrate diet, the DASH Diet, and the Mediterranean diet. Furthermore, Dr. Rimm delineates the important components of healthy dietary patterns, and how to best put healthy eating into practice. Upon completion of this module, participants will have a clearer sense of how to gauge the quality of research behind various dietary patterns; and also be able to differentiate between popular diets making unsubstantiated claims, and high-quality dietary patterns with a strong evidence base.
Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., is Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Willett studied food science at Michigan State University, and graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School before obtaining a Masters and Doctorate in Public Health from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Dr. Willett has focused much of his work over the last 40 years on the development and evaluation of methods, using both questionnaire and biochemical approaches, to study the effects of diet on the occurrence of major diseases. He has applied these methods starting in 1980 in the Nurses’ Health Studies I and II and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Together, these cohorts that include nearly 300,000 men and women with repeated dietary assessments, are providing the most detailed information on the long-term health consequences of food choices.
Dr. Willett has published over 1,700 original research papers and reviews, primarily on lifestyle risk factors for heart disease, cancer, and other conditions and has written the textbook, Nutritional Epidemiology, published by Oxford University Press, now in its third edition. He also has written four books for the general public. Dr. Willett is the most cited nutritional epidemiologist internationally. He is a member of the National Academy of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of many national and international awards for his research.
Frank Hu, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., is Chair of Department of Nutrition, Fredrick J. Stare Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He serves as Co-director of the Program in Obesity Epidemiology and Prevention at Harvard and Director of the Boston Nutrition and Obesity Research Center (BNORC) Epidemiology and Genetics Core. Dr. Hu received his MD from Tongji Medical College in China and a PhD in Epidemiology from University of Illinois at Chicago. His research is focused on nutritional and lifestyle epidemiology, prevention of obesity and cardiometabolic diseases, gene-environment interactions, and nutritional metabolomics. In 2010, Dr. Hu received the American Diabetes Association Kelly West Award for Outstanding Achievement in Epidemiology. He has served on the Institute of Medicine (IOM) Committee on Preventing the Global Epidemic of Cardiovascular Disease, the AHA/ACC Obesity Guideline Expert Panel, and the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, USDA/HHS. He currently serves on the editorial boards of Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Diabetes Care, and Clinical Chemistry. Dr. Hu was elected to the U.S. National Academy of Medicine in 2015.
Eric Rimm, ScD, is Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition and Director of the Program in Cardiovascular Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School. For over two decades, he has conducted extensive research on the health effects of diet and lifestyle in relation to obesity and chronic disease. He is internationally recognized for his extensive work in the study of the health effects of moderate alcohol consumption, whole grains, micronutrients, and polyphenols. He also studies the impact of local and national nutrition policy as it relates to the improvement of diets of school children, the 1 in 7 Americans on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and other federal nutrition assistance programs. He has previously served on an Institute of Medicine’s Food Policy committee and the scientific advisory committee for the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. He has published more than 700 peer-reviewed publications during his 23 years on the faculty at Harvard. Dr. Rimm has received several awards for his work including the American Society for Nutrition General Mills Institute of Health and Nutrition Innovation Award. He is Course Director for Evidence-based Optimal Nutrition: The Quest For Proof.
Support for this course was provided by the Coverys Community Healthcare Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.