The American Society for Nutrition's (ASN's) 2013 Advances and Controversies in Clinical Nutrition (ACCN) conference is fast approaching. For those unfamiliar with the meeting, Advances and Controversies brings together clinical nutrition researchers and practitioners to discuss best practices and recent developments in the field. This year's meeting—to be held Dec. 5-7 at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C.--will address nutrition advances that could impact the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the role of the microbiome, the use of evidence-based medicine in clinical practice, multidisciplinary approaches to clinical and public health, and many new research controversies. The full program for the meeting can be found on ASN's website. Interested participants may register for the conference here.
For more information on ACCN, we spoke with one of this year's presenters, Dr. Dale A. Schoeller of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Schoeller's presentation, “New Technologies for Monitoring Food Intake,” is scheduled for Saturday, December 7 at 8:00 am. In this interview, he offers us a preview of his presentation and outlines the benefits of attending the conference.
Interviewer: Would you begin by telling us a bit about your presentation for the upcoming Advances and Controversies in Clinical Nutrition conference?
Dr. Schoeller: Nutrition science is the study of the influences of food on the body's function, but we, as researchers and clinicians, often lack accurate metrics to measure an individual's diet. In order to correct this problem, I want to begin by building a case for what we don't know about a patient's dietary habits. That means I'll be sharing data that shows the discordance between what patients report they eat and what they actually eat. I'll then present some alternatives to these traditional self-reporting techniques. There is a whole world of new sensors being developed with rapid downloading and logging as well as the development of a variety of biomarkers for various nutrients.
Interviewer: What other presentations are you most looking forward to at this year's meeting?
Dr. Schoeller: One area I am most interested in is the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity, such as “Is it Ever Too Early to Intervene in Childhood Obesity?” led by the former director of the CDC's Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, Dr. William Dietz, and Dr. Thomas Inge's presentation on “Bariatric Surgery in Obese Children and Adolescents.” Another is the influences of diet and lifestyle on energy balance and the development of obesity.
Interviewer: Why should ASN members choose to attend this meeting in particular?
Dr. Schoeller: This meeting provides an outstanding opportunity to get an educated review of the field that covers both years of research and some of the newest advances, allowing clinicians and investigators to get “caught up” quickly on these issues. The other really unique thing about this meeting is the mix of clinicians and researchers. Although they have common interests, they come with very different viewpoints on nutritional sciences, giving attendees the benefit of these complimentary perspectives that they can't find elsewhere.
Interviewer: What are your current research interests?
Dr. Schoeller: My main interest is the prevention of childhood obesity. I'm getting involved in several community-based interventions and evaluations of outcomes in that area. I also have a broader interest in energy balance, body composition, and how they predict chronic disease.
Interviewer: How do you see new technologies shaping food intake monitoring in the future?
Dr. Schoeller: If they do indeed prove to be more accurate than self-report, they should dramatically improve what we know about the connections between diet and disease. On this front, these technologies should not only give us more details about those connections, they should also be able to avoid misinformation that often comes with self-reporting.
A prime example of how that misinformation can derail investigation was the assumption that obese people needed lower amounts of energy because they reported eating fewer calories than non-obese patients but were still gaining weight. We ultimately found, however, that this hypothesis was inaccurate because the dietary data was wrong.
Interviewer: How did you first get interested in nutrition? What made you decide to pursue a career in the field?
Dr. Schoeller: In high school, I was very science-oriented, and in college I became interested in how to make accurate and precise measurements, ultimately culminating in a degree in analytical chemistry. While my degree may be in chemistry, all my research has been in nutrition.
Interviewer: Where and why did you get involved with ASN, and how has it been helpful to your career?
Dr. Schoeller: As a postdoc at the University of Chicago, I was required to become a member of ASN, which at that time was the American Institute of Nutrition. The real appeal for me was, and continues to be, the mix of MDs and PhDs that the merged ASN attracts. The other attraction, of course, is that ASN does a tremendous job advocating for nutrition science, both with the public and government funding agencies.