Let’s state the obvious: We had a BLAST at the American Dietetic Association’s Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo a few weeks ago. More than 10,000 Registered Dietitians descended on our great city of Boston for the annual conference, and Oldways was there, ready to update RDs on our latest free resources for the Med Diet, whole grains, and other nutrition topics.

We were over the moon to hear people say, over and over, “I use your materials all the time!” or “Your updated Med Pyramid just makes healthy food look so delicious!” Our new Welcome to the Mediterranean Diet brochure (aka Med Diet 101) was a big hit with the RDs, and is now for sale (or free download) on our website. Gotta say, we came back full of renewed energy – nothing like a good dose of positive feedback to keep us going, in our quest to make the world safe for healthy food.

Our theme for our booth was “Navigate Your Way to Health,” and many of our signature pieces were handmade and painted, and will be worth millions someday. Millions! We had quite a few nautical features as well, and everyone took turns being Captain of the ship!

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Our youngest but most enthusiastic captain to date

The Oldways crew took turns manning the ship (ok, that’s the last nautical-themed joke I’ll make) so that we could all attend educational sessions and visit the other booths. I loved walking the floor and getting to interact with all of the different companies and dietitians. Everywhere you looked, there was something fun to do or someone cool to meet — and something new to learn that will help us in our work.


I ruled my kingdom fairly and justly.

Glitz and glamour, mixed with plenty of food for thought (thoughts for food?) – that’ s what FNCE was all about. It’ s impossible to include everything we learned here, but each session was as information-packed as these two that Cindy, as our Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies, summarized for us:
From “Folate: Friend or Foe?”
Folic acid fortification, in place in the U.S. since 1998, has accomplished its major goal: to cut Neural Tube Defects, a serious class of birth defects.  But new research has led some countries to pull back from plans for fortification, as discussed on the Whole Grains Council blog.
  • Folic acid appears to be protective against cancer in general. But once cells turn pre-cancerous, high levels of folate hasten the growth of tumors.
  • Most chemotherapy treatments are “anti-folates” so their effectiveness is blunted by excess folic acid in our bodies.
  • Dr. In-Young Kim does not recommend cancer survivors take folate supplements. “We don’t know the safe and effective dose range, and it may be that natural folate [found in foods] acts differently than folic acid [the synthetic form used in fortification and supplements].”
  • Neural Tube Defects affect 1 in every 1000 live births. But 1 in every 2 people over age 65 have pre-cancerous cells. Increasing the folic acid in our diets may benefit a small group, while endangering a very large group. “Think about the math: who’s at risk?” says Dr. Kim.
  • Speaker Gail Kauwell summed it up, “Too much folic acid at the wrong time may be just as harmful as too little.”
  • The bottom line: Folate is essential to the function of cells, so eat whole grains, leafy greans, legumes, and other good food sources of folate. But take it easy on the supplementation and fortification.
From “The Great Fat Debate”
This four-speaker presentation addressed the question, “Does fat make you fat?” In the context of recent research showing that the ratio of fats, protein, and carbohydrates in the diet does not affect weight management, all four speakers said, “No!” — and also presented copious research showing that total fat does not affect heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases, either.
  • Research solidly supports that the level of total fat in our diets does not correlate to health. Walter Willett said, “The focus on reduction of fat in the Dietary Guidelines has been a massive distraction, and in fact it may be harmful if healthful fats are reduced. We should remove any references to the percent of energy from fat in the Guidelines, and take Total Fat off the Nutrition Facts Panel on foods.”
  • The type of fat we eat still matters. It’s best to avoid trans fats altogether, and reduce saturated fats to about 7% of calories.
  • What you eat in place of saturated fats makes a difference in health outcomes. From Darius Mozzafarian: “The real message here is, increase your polys [polyunsaturated fats].”
  • Our favorite quote, from Lewis Kuller: “Eating is a social pleasure and not a therapeutic challenge. We have done an excellent job of confusing the public.” Amen.
What’s the common denominator in both these talks? It’s the Oldways philosophy of getting the nutrients your body needs from a wide variety of delicious, whole foods, and enjoying the pleasures of the table rather than obsessing about what you’re eating. — Cindy
Of course, I highly enjoyed Anthony Bourdain’s closing remarks on globalization, but chef/TV star gods aside, the real value of FNCE is getting a concentrated update on key nutrition issues, and connecting with old and new friends while building lasting relationships with wonderful people. When I asked what everyone’s favorite FNCE moment was on Twitter, here are some of the responses I received: Seeing friends old & new and of course @NoReservations talking straight to #RDs — @tspbasil Running into friends or when expo hall opened for 1st time #FNCE — @InglesDietitian I couldn’t agree more! It was so great meeting Emma, Elizabeth, Janel, Corinne and other Twitter friends in real life. The power of the Internet! What was YOUR favorite FNCE moment? What other resources can Oldways be creating, to help you in your work? See you all next year!

- Alison and the Oldways Staff

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