Heart illlustration filled with vegetabls, logo of DOH Conference.

 Diet and Optimum Health 2013

Whole-Food Approaches to Disease Prevention

The Linus Pauling Institute invites scientific colleagues from around the world, every alternate year, to our Diet and Optimum Health conference, to discuss research on dietary and lifestyle approaches to improving human health and preventing and treating disease.

Diet and Optimum Health 2013 included a day of sharing with the public a plethora of scientifically based findings and recommendations about whole-food approaches to disease prevention.

We offer here one of the series of summaries of the four public presentations.


David Ludwig, MD, Ph.D., Harvard University, Boston, MassachusettsDavid Ludwig, smiling


Ludwig began with alarming information on how rapidly the obesity epidemic has developed in the last few decades. The “vicious cycle” of obesity in children and adults can have potentially astronomical costs (including psychosocial and economic) to individuals as well as to society over time.

Weight gain, Ludwig explained, is related to a complex interplay of our biology, behavior, and environment, and our conventional approaches in all three realms may have failed. Yet innovative approaches offer hope:

  • Ludwig challenged the government’s “food pyramids” of the past. The current “My Plate” model is a step forward, he said, with fruits and vegetables covering half the plate – and yet “grains” are not specified to be minimally processed. He also referred to evidence negating the value of popular low-fat diets and also low-carb diets. “The low-fat Twinkie is not a health food,” he said. He referred to evidence for the significance of glycemic index for long-term weight loss and maintenance.
  • He recommended that parents help children develop an active lifestyle by making physical activity fun, increasing time outdoors, encouraging participation in chores, and decreasing sedentary activities.
  • Young children naturally learn dietary practices by observing their parents, he said, but instead many are unduly influenced by the media’s promotion of junk foods. Based on research, he recommends an “authoritative style” of parenting: respectful with clear boundaries. This includes bringing into the house only foods that support health and also modeling good dietary practices. “If you do it, they’ll do it,” he said.

He concluded with a vision of an “optimal weight for life program,” with a “victorious cycle” which may include families joining with others to make our society’s dietary environment “less toxic.”



A recording of Dr. Ludwig’s presentation, as well as the other Whole-Food Approaches to Disease Prevention  presentations, are available for viewing online.


Thank you for referring to the Linus Pauling Institute as a source  for scientifically accurate information regarding the roles of vitamins, minerals, other nutrients, dietary phytochemicals , and some foods and beverages in preventing disease and promoting health. Link to the  Micronutrient Information Center, where you can also sign up for LPI’s free, semi-annual Research Newsletter and occasional, timely updates.


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