Nutritional sciences professor discusses student dieting

Josh Willis

While students snacked on pizza, Jaimie Davis, nutritional sciences assistant professor, discussed the difference between counting carbs and measuring fat intake at the Perry-Castañeda Library on Wednesday.

As part of UT Libraries’ “Research and Pizza” series, Davis said weight loss is often in the forefront of the minds of college students, as many are subject to weight gain within their first year.

“It’s actually not the freshman 15. Research actually shows it’s more like 3 to 8 pounds that freshmen gain when they go to college,” Davis said. “A lot of that has to do with a decrease in activity, and, also, you’re eating differently. You have access to cafeterias and, of course, alcohol consumption does play a role in that.”

Davis spoke about the differences between diets that focus on reduction of carbohydrates versus fat intake.

“In the last 10 years, we’ve seen a big debate on whether it’s low carb or low fat and which diet is better for weight loss,” Davis said. “I don’t know that I’m going to 100 percent answer that question.”

Davis said the pizza served at the event contained between 30 and 40 grams of carbohydrates per slice, making it a food that should be enjoyed rarely.

She showed slides from a recent study from the School of Health at Tulane University. She said the study involved innovative tactics to study weight loss between diets reducing fat and carb intake.

“They did 24-hour diet recalls, which is the state-of-the-art way to measure diet. Measuring diet is actually fairly challenging in our field, but diet recalls are the best way to do it,” Davis said. “You call and ask everything they ate the previous day.”

University librarian Roxanne Bogucka said Davis’ research for weight loss applies to more than just college students.

“Her research focuses on designing and disseminating nutrition, physical activity and [behavior] to reduce obesity and related metabolic disorders in overweight minority children and adolescents,” Bogucka said.

Davis said her conclusion on the difference between diets is miniscule but warns that starving yourself will not lead to a lasting diet.

“Both diets respond with very similar weight loss, and any diet that you do where you cut calories down, you’ll see very similar reductions in weight loss,” Davis said. “Obviously, if you’re on a diet, and you’re always hungry, I guarantee you’re not going to stay on that diet for long.”

Pharmacy senior Andrea Laguado said Davis’ argument about a lasting diet makes sense to her.

“I agree with what she said, that you just have to make [eating healthy] a lifetime thing, versus using a diet,” Laguado said. “I don’t use diets ever, and I was a nutrition major.”