3

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Hack my nutrition exam!

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created October 28, 2010 at 9:02 PM

In a couple months, I'm taking my PhD qualifying exam. Part of it is a three hour oral exam, with an hour each devoted to nutrition science, food policy, and nutritional epidemiology. They ask half big questions, such as "You just ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich: describe the macronutrient intestinal absorption" or "How does price elasticity pertain to food aid in Latin America?". They also ask smaller questions, such as "Describe the different protein scores used to assess protein quality" or "Name three benefits of cross-over studies".

There's two wildcards. One, it's been years since I've taken a class, because of taking some time off. Two, I can't veer too much into paleo, or risk failing by attacking orthodoxy. However, I can cleverly incorporate paleo into "two sides to every story" for some questions, and maybe impress the panel.

What are some big questions or intriguing questions you would ask about nutrition science, epidemiology, or food policy? Half their questions seem to be ones that nutrition enthusiasts would ask, so it would be cool to get a good sampling here, from people that share my nutritional world view. Anything is game: vitamins, minerals, fat, population studies, "What would you do" questions, poverty and nutrition, etc. The only real-life examples I have are the ones above plus "What are some reasons humans don't eat grass?" and "What are the top nutritional concerns for pregnant women?"

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 31, 2010
at 02:17 AM

Ooh, good one. Nice way to sneak in some paleo too.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 30, 2010
at 05:16 PM

I didn't have a life sciences background, but did have a public health background. So I snuck up to nutritional epi through the food policy track. Nutritional epi requires the basic pre-med classes plus biochem and sometimes molecular bio. If you have an engineering background and your name is mobius strip, you'll excel.

A0b8c4cc369f93ee987ce15b1bf323fe

on October 30, 2010
at 04:45 PM

Awesome, thanks for the info. Do these programs typically require a strong background in life sciences? I DO like biostats since I come from a very quantitative background in engineering - but I understand what you mean about the its "evils". I'm reading GCBC now and it's rather frightening...

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 30, 2010
at 04:25 PM

Go for it! Mine is a PhD in food policy, concentrating in nutritional epi. The "best" programs include cornell, columbia, tufts, harvard, hopkins, berkeley, irvine. Do you like biostats? Because that is a necessary evil (depending on your perspective).

A0b8c4cc369f93ee987ce15b1bf323fe

on October 30, 2010
at 04:14 PM

Great topic, very interesting Kamal. What kind of program are you enrolled in? I am very interested in pursuing an advanced degree in nutrition/biostats/public health, and it sounds like you're hitting some important topics here. Just trying to find out what's out there! Thanks

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 29, 2010
at 06:26 PM

Eva, I have no idea what vitamin or mineral the average American is most likely to be deficient in! Excellent question!

2f653fa504adc81612619106e7d1f65e

(455)

on October 29, 2010
at 05:07 PM

Yes good one :-)

2f653fa504adc81612619106e7d1f65e

(455)

on October 29, 2010
at 05:07 PM

Wow I envy you on your endeavor! Good Luck with it all :-)

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 29, 2010
at 05:07 AM

You should go into the test-giving profession.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 29, 2010
at 01:33 AM

I like the hydrogenation one, and will try to read more about it.

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 28, 2010
at 09:19 PM

Also, feel free to delete this if it isn't paleo enough...

  • 21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

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4 Answers

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4
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on October 29, 2010
at 04:27 AM

I am guessing they will probably throw in some headline news making stories type stuff about childhood obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabeties, heart disease etc so better know a lot about the trendy hot button issues like those.

One question might be how are the above problems linked? Or what advice would you give to those suffering one of the above problems. What causes any of the above illnesses.

Name one habit or habit change that would best improve the health of and/or help maintain healthy weight of the average American?

Name the healthiest food in America and explain why.

What vitamin or mineral is the average American most likely to be deficient in.

How are the RDAs determined?

How do chimpanzee/rat/pig dietary requirements differ from human dietary requirements and how might that affect research study outcome.

Why can two people of the same height eat the same amount of calories but one person will get fat and another person won't. Or same question but also assuming similar levels of exercise.

Why do women crave weird and sometimes apparently inedible foods during pregnancy. (stuff like chalk..)

Why is diet soda unhealthy?

What evidence is there that humans are omnivores instead of carnivores or herbivores.

How is the topology of an intestinal tract indicative of what kind of foods that animal is designed to eat (same question but with dentition, stomach, etc)

What happens when you feed an animal large amounts of food that it is not designed to eat?

What is the ideal macronutrient breakdown for humans and give evidence as to why?

What causes insulin resistance?

How do you know if you have eaten too much food?

How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if.. (oh no wait, that would be a kinesiology question..)

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 29, 2010
at 06:26 PM

Eva, I have no idea what vitamin or mineral the average American is most likely to be deficient in! Excellent question!

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 29, 2010
at 05:07 AM

You should go into the test-giving profession.

2
A089b683ee0498f2b21b7edfa300e405

on October 29, 2010
at 04:18 AM

How about the controversial role of GMO foods..

2f653fa504adc81612619106e7d1f65e

(455)

on October 29, 2010
at 05:07 PM

Yes good one :-)

1
61852721b5ff3613f56f043fe890a679

(1172)

on October 31, 2010
at 01:25 AM

  • describe and analyze the sudden appearance of severe childhood food allergies in the late 20th century (peanuts, etc)

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 31, 2010
at 02:17 AM

Ooh, good one. Nice way to sneak in some paleo too.

1
47a42b6be94caf700fce9509e38bb6a4

(9647)

on October 29, 2010
at 01:19 AM

Uh ... Totally just writing off the top of my head here: What are the different nutritional needs of men and women? Growing children? Old people?

What are the common diseases that are probably caused by malnutrition? How expensive is each one to treat?

Do they ask about key figures from history in food and food policy? Maybe look at them and what they did. Like Malthus. And the dude who came up with the new strains of wheat and probably saved a few hundred million lives, etc.

How about a working knowledge of the various weird nutritional disorders that people have, like the one where you can't synthesize your own cholesterol. People like asking questions about the abnormal because it shines light on the normal.

How about various twentieth-century innovations in food "technology," like hydrogenation. Or "flavor engineers," the people who create flavors in labs. Maybe that latter is too pop-culture for your exam.

Brainstorming ...

21fd060d0796fdb8a4a990441e08eae7

(24543)

on October 29, 2010
at 01:33 AM

I like the hydrogenation one, and will try to read more about it.

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