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David Ludwig

Step up to the plate

by Tripp Underwood on January 4, 2012

The New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital recently hosted a symposium for nutritionists, medical professionals and community leaders to discuss the USDA’s current dietary guidelines and new MyPlate icon. Here’s a brief video recapping this exciting meeting of these respected and nutritionally-sound minds:

To learn more about the symposium, which featured award winning chef and famed restaurateur Jody Adams, Sam Kass, assistant White House chef and senior policy advisory for Healthy Food Initiatives at the White House, and a host of other important speakers, check out this blog chronicling the whole talk. If you’d like to learn more about childhood obesity or talk to one of our experts, please contact the obesity prevention center.

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Children’s makes the Top Doc list

by Tripp Underwood on December 14, 2011

Boston Magazine recently released its 2011 Top Doc list, made up of the best 650 physicians in the Hub. Seeing as Boston is home to some of the greatest medical minds on the planet, the list reads like a prestigious who’s-who roster of talent; a medical dream team spanning every aspect of treatment, from surgery to research and innovation.

Broken into 57 different specialties, doctors included on the list are voted for by fellow medical professionals, meaning that the Top Docs have not only gained the respect of the public and media, but of their peers as well.

Children’s Hospital Boston is proud to announce that over 10 percent of the entire list was made up of our staff, many of whom will be familiar to Thriving readers.

David Ludwig, MD, PhD

As director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital, David Ludwig, MD, PhD, is a respected leader in childhood obesity research and prevention, as well as a regular Thriving contributor and interviewee. In a recent post Ludwig explains why he supports legislation that would restrict the amount of junk food available through public assistance programs. For more blogs on Dr. Ludwig’s work, click here.


In 2004 Children’s Chief of Cardiac Surgery, Pedro del Nido, MD, was the first person to use the da Vinci surgical robot to fix a defect in a child’s heart, using child-sized tools of his own design. Read about another family whose child was also saved by Dr. del Nido’s surgical expertise and steady hands.



Mininder Kocher, MD, MPH

Mininder Kocher, MD, MPH, associate director of Children’s Division of Sports Medicine, helps many young athletes work through their sports related injuries. Most recently Dr. Kocher and one of his patients was featured on ABC World News, a segment that included a guest appearance by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.


David Hunter, MD, PhD

David Hunter, MD, PhD, Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Department of Ophthalmology has spent years helping young people see better. In this recent blog post, Dr. Hunter weighs in on new research that indicates that the amount of time a toddler spends outside could have a direct, positive relationship on his developing eyesight. Full story »

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This was my breakfast last Friday.

As a black coffee and dry toast kind of guy, I have to admit I was skeptical when I first laid eyes on the plate. Roasted red peppers, kale sautéed in garlic and olive oil, black beans, cheese and smoked salmon isn’t exactly my traditional 8 AM fare.

But after a few bites I was sold; at some point it seems my tastes had changed without me knowing, which I was about to learn was a very good thing.

“When it comes to food, it’s OK to break the rules,” said award winning chef and famed restaurateur Jody Adams, as she addressed a packed house of nutritionists, medical professionals and community leaders who gathered at Children’s Hospital Boston to discuss the USDA’s current dietary guidelines and new MyPlate icon.

“In fact, if we are going to be successful in our mission to reduce and prevent childhood obesity in this country, more than a few rules are going to have to be broken. We need to change the way we think about a lot of foods,” she said.

Adams, along with Sam Kass, assistant White House chef and senior policy advisory for Healthy Food Initiatives at the White House,  spoke Friday morning at Step Up to the Plate, a panel discussion hosted by the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital. In addition to Kass and Adams, the panel included Boston Public Health Commission Director Barbara Ferrer PhD, MPH, MEd , Cara Ebbeling, PhD, Associate Director of Research and Training at the Center and Eric Rimm, ScD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at Harvard; each bringing a unique vision about how the USDA’s dietary guidelines can be utilized to help American kids eat and live better.

As a recognized leader in the fight against childhood obesity, Center director David Ludwig, MD, PhD, was the esteemed host of the event, but the real star of the show was MyPlate, the color-coded icon that recently replaced the Food Pyramid as the government’s visual representation of a balanced diet. Full story »

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David Ludwig, MD, PhD

David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center and the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, was recently featured in the annual medical issue of the Boston Globe Magazine. Ludwig was profiled for his leadership role in the war on childhood obesity.

 “Ludwig, who holds a chair in pediatric endocrinology at Harvard and directs the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) program at Children’s Hospital, is arguably the nation’s leading crusader in the battle against childhood obesity. With nearly a third of US children and teens overweight, and fully 17 percent obese, Ludwig believes this battle is one we cannot afford to lose.”

(For the full article click here, subscription required.) Full story »

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Fighting childhood obesity: SNAP v. soda

by Tripp Underwood on September 27, 2011

In the mid 20th century, hunger was a major concern for America’s poor. To better support malnourished families living below the poverty line, the federal government created the Food Stamp Act in 1964 to help provide healthy food to people in need.

America’s nutritional landscape has changed a lot over the past 50 years. Malnourishment is still a big problem in America, but in a much different way than it was back then.

Because of their lower prices and mass availability, unhealthy foods and drinks have become a staple in the diets of millions of Americans. Obesity rates in this country have grown to epidemic levels, with impoverished communities being hit especially hard. In low-income homes across the country, overweight and obese children now outnumber underweight kids by a ratio of seven to one.

To combat this epidemic, many states are trying to change what type of items people can buy via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP-formerly know as food stamps). Because sugar-sweetened beverages have no nutritional value and have been closely linked with obesity, nine states, including Illinois, Nebraska, Texas and most recently New York, have tried to have these drinks barred from being bought with SNAP money.  In each case the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has said no. Full story »

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Children’s in the news

by Tripp Underwood on August 25, 2011

Have you heard about the new kids’ book, “Maggie Goes on a Diet”? It’s basically a retelling of the age-old ugly ducking fable, but with a modern twist. In this reenactment, the duckling is a 14-year-old girl who goes on a diet, and with a little hard work goes from being an overweight, self-conscious kid to a star soccer player and the most popular girl in school.

The book may stress the importance of healthful eating and exercise, but many people are finding fault with the author’s emphasis on the thin = happy storyline, instead of focusing on the importance of health.

Among the critics is our own Dr. Claire, who was on New England Cable News this morning to talk about Maggie, childhood obesity and how to send kids the right message about health and weight.

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Food for thought: The war against childhood obesity

by Tripp Underwood on August 10, 2011

Daivd Ludwig, MD, PhD

For David Ludwig, MD, PhD, one of health’s most fundamental truths can be traced back to a 2,000-year-old quote from Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine: “Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food.”

It’s a simple but powerful philosophy, and when combined with current research in obesity prevention, it’s one of the cornerstones of Children’s Hospital Boston’s Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) Clinic. “Hippocrates was right, nutrition really is the foundation for health and well-being,” says Ludwig. “He understood that intuitively, without access to the modern science and technology.”

Founded by Ludwig in 1996, OWL is a multidisciplinary clinic with a staff that includes physicians, nurses, dietitians and experts in child behavior. With Ludwig at the helm, OWL has spent the past decade and a half researching childhood obesity while serving over 1,500 patients a year, making it one of the largest and most respected childhood obesity clinics in America. Now, thanks to a $7 million grant provided by the New Balance Foundation, Ludwig and his team will be able to expand their clinical research, patient care and community health programs. The newly created New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center will bring Ludwig’s message to even more children and communities struggling with weight issues.

Since he was 8 years old, Ludwig has been captivated by the inner workings of the human body. By the time he finished the fourth grade he had read every physiology book on the shelves of his local library.

That fascination stayed with him throughout his education. When he began his pediatric endocrinology fellowship at Children’s, he focused his studies on diet and weight, researching how brain function affects body size, as well as the role genetics plays in why some people become obese and others do not.

But with childhood obesity already reaching epidemic status by the mid-1990s, Ludwig felt a more preventive approach was needed to remedy the mounting health problems that overweight children would face in the future.

“Our genes, though important, haven’t caused the epidemic—so we need to look to the environment for the answers,” he says. Full story »


Headlines like “Should Parents Lose Custody of Super-Obese Kids?’’ and “The War on Bad Parenting” conjure up some pretty strong mental images. Outrage and fear may sell newspapers and attract web traffic, but according to Boston Globe columnist Joanna Weiss, sensationalist journalism can also detract from the issues at hand.

“Maybe we tune out the headlines and the fear-mongering and find a way to talk about health issues quietly, one on one,” she wrote in an Op-Ed piece in Sunday’s Boston Globe, commenting on the explosive media coverage of a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). The controversial piece, written by David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, argues that life-threatening obesity—where a child’s body mass index (BMI) is beyond the 99 percentile and multiple attempts to help the child lose weight have failed—could call for state intervention, and in extreme cases foster care.

The following is an excerpt from Weiss’s editorial, including quotes from an interview she conducted with Ludwig after the JAMA commentary first attracted attention.

“Most people would be horrified if a child were systematically underfed, began to starve, and the state refused to help,’’ Ludwig said. “Why is that fundamentally different from a child who is so overfed that their life is now in danger?’’

It’s a reasonable question, but those have become increasingly hard to ask; you can’t suggest a modest solution to the obesity epidemic without facing a fiery backlash. People howl when Michelle Obama suggests they should eat more vegetables. They cry “nanny state’’ when Mayor Menino bans sugary drinks from vending machines.

And if we can’t agree on small steps, what do we do about these rare, extreme cases when a child’s life is at stake?


To read the full article, please click here.

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