UAB short course to promote better research into causes of obesity

researchersUAB will launch an annual short course to help researchers learn better to differentiate between causes and correlations in obesity research. Experts from various disciplines — statistics, psychology, philosophy and more — will expose students to methods employed in behavioral and social sciences during the five-day course planned for summer 2015.

Earlier this year, UAB researchers challenged some popular but erroneous obesity myths and unproven assumptions in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition that they suggest lead to poor policy decisions, inaccurate public health recommendations and wasted resources.

“Obesity literature often is association studies rather than randomized, controlled trials, which makes it a challenge to determine true causation,”said Kevin Fontaine, Ph.D, chair of the Department of Health Behavior in the School of Public Health. “But there are many techniques in other disciplines that can help us strengthen the quality of the conclusions of obesity research to better determine whether A really does cause B.”

The course will be funded by a four-year, $1 million R25 grant from the National Institutes of Health awarded to Fontaine and David Allison, Ph.D., director of UAB’s Nutrition Obesity Research Center.

Fontaine says about 50 experts from UAB and elsewhere will teach the course, on a rotating basis. Registration information will be available by the end of the year.

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