Ohio Wesleyan to Host Harvard Professor, Author, Researcher

Walter C. Willett, M.D., to Discuss Diet, Disease at Free Nov. 6 Event

DELAWARE, Ohio – Walter C. Willett, M.D., author of “Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating,” will examine the links between diet and disease, including heart disease and cancer, when he speaks Nov. 6 at Ohio Wesleyan University.

Willett, chair of the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and a professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School, will speak at 3 p.m. Nov. 6 in the Benes Rooms inside Ohio Wesleyan’s Hamilton-Williams Campus Center, 40 Rowland Ave., Delaware. His presentation is part of the university’s 2012 Sagan National Colloquium, “Bite! Examining the Mutually Transformative Relationship Between People and Food.” It also will be streamed live and archived online at http://stream.owu.edu.

Willett’s research “involves the investigation of dietary factors … in the cause and prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other important conditions,” according to Harvard University. “Fundamental to this work has been the development of methods to measure dietary intake in large populations … [including] standardized dietary questionnaires that can be completed repeatedly by subjects over a number of years.”

Examples of relationships that he and his team have studied include describing “a positive association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer but no relation with fat intake, a positive association between animal fat and red meat consumption and risk of colon cancer, strong inverse associations between vitamin E consumption and risk of coronary heart disease in both men and women, a positive association between partially hydrogenated vegetable fats and coronary heart disease incidence, and inverse association between intake of calcium and kidney stones.”

In reviewing Willett’s book, The New England Journal of Medicine praises it for sharing good health information that is “sensible and practical and demystified.”

In the book’s opening chapter, Willett explains: “By making the right choices, you will help yourself avoid some of the things we think of as the inevitable penalties of getting older. A healthy diet teamed up with regular exercise and no smoking can eliminate 80 percent of heart disease and 70 percent of some cancers. Making poor choices – eating too much of the wrong kinds of food and too little of the right kinds, or too much food altogether – increases your chances of developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, digestive disorders, and aging-related loss of vision.”

Christopher L. Fink, Ph.D., chair of the Ohio Wesleyan Department of Health and Human Kinetics and director of this year’s Sagan National Colloquium, said he is pleased to have Willett, a global expert in public health nutrition and epidemiology, be part of this year’s series.

“The work that he and his colleagues at Harvard have done has set the standard for dietary-related recommendations, as they take into account so much of the contextual importance of food,” Fink said. “His focus on the culminating, transformative effects of food on our health is, in a way, representative of the series as a whole, as so much of our societal focus related to food centers on its impact on our health. So, having such an expert coming to our region – and our campus in particular – is truly exciting.”

Ohio Wesleyan will conclude this year’s Sagan National Colloquium Nov. 14, when Fabio Parasecoli, Ph.D., associate professor and coordinator food studies at The New School for Public Engagement in New York, discusses “Food, Film, and Cultural Citizenship.” Parasecoli’s current research examines food and masculinity in movies and the sociopolitical aspects of food, international trade, and intellectual property. He also is involved in international food studies, including serving as program adviser at Gustolab, a center for food and culture in Rome, Italy. He will speak at 7 p.m. Nov. 14 in the Benes Rooms in Hamilton-Williams Campus Center. His presentation also will be streamed live online and archived at http://stream.owu.edu.

Each year, Ohio Wesleyan’s Sagan National Colloquium addresses an issue of international importance. It is funded through an endowment from the late Margaret (Pickett) Sagan and the late John Sagan, both members of the OWU Class of 1948. Past Colloquium speakers have included social activist Gloria Steinem, authors Barbara Ehrenreich and Kurt Vonnegut, Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams, and former President Gerald Ford.


Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier small, private universities. Ohio Wesleyan offers more than 90 undergraduate majors, sequences, and courses of study, and 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. OWU combines an internationally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities that connect classroom theory with real-world practice. Located in Delaware, Ohio, OWU’s 1,850 students represent 41 states and 45 countries. The university is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the 2012 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with distinction, and included on the “best colleges” lists of U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. Learn more at www.owu.edu.

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