Can eating meat cause a girl to get her first period earlier? What are the true goods on the health effects of salt or corn syrup? And are vegetarians really happier anyway?
Helping consumers, including doctors, to make sense of nutrition topics is the goal of a new online blog by Blair Cameron, a master’s student in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences (HHNS).
He began the “Fodder File” early this spring to provide nutrition and health news and information to readers. Cameron’s blog postings every couple of days cover various themes, including recent items on the above topics (http://fodderfile.com/).
Each week he sifts through at least 100 articles published in top journals, including stories from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the Journal of Nutrition, Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine, the British Journal of Nutrition, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
He also scans mainstream media sites online and other health science blogs.
“Food for thought about evidence-based nutrition” is the Fodder File’s tagline. Cameron hopes especially to serve up relevant information for health professionals, including material about disease prevention. “It’s targeted to medical students, but it’s accessible to anyone.”
Cameron says nutrition occupies only two to four weeks in the typical medical school curriculum. “It’s mostly about pregnant-mother needs or a geriatric patient with a broken hip. But nutrition goes way beyond that.”
He also hopes his colourful, easy-to-read style will help general readers sort out nutrition and health claims and separate hype from science in media reports. One post this week directs readers to a whimsical animated film from YouTube called Dinner’s Ready. There’s a word-of-the-week feature (this week’s entry is actually two words: “statistically significant”).
One article about diet and hepatitis-C drew a note from one reader whose father had seen little relief from conventional treatments. “That sort of response brought the impact of it into clear focus,” says Cameron.
He avoids dispensing medical advice. “It’s reliable information that can brighten your day a little bit.”
The blog draws about 50 hits a day and has registered a total of more than 3,600 views. Hot topics include new research on vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, vegetarian diets and – perhaps no surprise – chocolate. He’s also written about more general science news, including this spring’s announcement that Craig Venter had made a form of synthetic life.
Cameron refined the blog idea this past winter during a product development assignment for a course. He’d actually considered the concept during his B.Sc., completed last year at Guelph. “I felt a bit of responsibility to share some information I was learning about advances in nutrition that could have a significant benefit in people’s lives.”
He says he picked up useful tips from a new research communications course taught earlier this year by HHNS Prof. Alison Duncan and Owen Roberts, U of G’s director of research communications.
This summer, Cameron is maintaining his blog from Ottawa, where he’s interning at the Micronutrient Initiative. That non-profit organization aims to provide vitamins and minerals to people, particularly women and children, in developing countries. Cameron is working on a project to provide iodine through salt in Kenya.
He plans to complete his master’s degree with Prof. Bill Bettger this year and will apply to medical school in the fall.