In 2018, ASN’s Public Information Committee developed the Understanding Nutritional Science video competition as a way for ASN to showcase how the research conducted by ASN members benefits public health. The video competition aims to educate the public about nutrition research and teach consumers the impact of nutrition research on public health, encouraging them to investigate nutrition information they come across in a scientific manner. Conversations about nutrition and health are now common in the media and in the lives of many consumers, given the strong interest in the health benefits of certain foods and food components. However, not everyone understands how to evaluate the nutrition information they come across to determine fact versus fiction.

First Place–Mobile application for weight loss after childbirth 

Submitter: Erin Frost, Maria Koleilat, Paul Inventado

The goal of this program evaluation is to create and test, via focus groups, a user-centered smartphone application (app) aimed at assisting participants of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in losing weight after childbirth.  Postpartum weight retention (PPWR) is a key contributor to obesity in women. Also, PPWR leads to increased health risks for the mother and her offspring. Twenty-five percent of US women who gave birth between 2004 and 2008 experienced major weight retention after childbirth, retaining more than 4.5 kg and gaining more weight during the year after childbirth. The rates of weight retention after childbirth are even higher among low-income Hispanic women, ranging from 40 to 60%. The WIC program has the unique potential to reach low-income and racial/ethnic minority women and influence their weight during pregnancy and interconception. The purpose of WIC is to improve the nutritional status and health of low-income, nutritionally at-risk pregnant or lactating new women and children under the age of five. WIC services include the provision of supplemental food, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and healthcare referral. The WIC program serves around 1.63 million women of childbearing age. An enrolled woman receives services during pregnancy and after birth. Therefore, given the wide reach of the program and timing of services, the WIC program has the potential to positively influence a woman’s weight loss after childbirth and potentially optimize her general health before her next pregnancy.  

The design and features of the app were based on the exploratory focus groups that submitters, Erin Frost, Maria Koleilat, and Paul Inventado, conducted to understand the barriers to weight loss and weight loss intervention preferences among postpartum WIC participants. During these exploratory focus group discussions, they learned that lack of knowledge, time, social support, and child care; having a cesarean section and postpartum depression, and; observing the Latino tradition of La Cuarentena were the most common barriers to weight loss among WIC mothers.  When asked to share their thoughts on an ideal weight loss program for women after childbirth, participants expressed a desire to have an app that provides accountability and peer support along with nutrition and exercise strategies. The design process of this app involved a multidisciplinary team of researchers from the Departments of Public Health and Computer Science at California State University, Fullerton. They are currently finalizing the prototype. Next, they will share the prototype with our users and gather feedback via focus groups to identify features that work well, features that require more refinement, and missing features. They hope that this app will facilitate a successful WIC experience for postpartum women by providing evidence-based strategies that will help them overcome their barriers to weight loss. Currently serving over 6 million participants nationwide, WIC plays a critical role in the health of many women and children. Therefore, intervening to combat weight retention among WIC mothers could have a tremendous impact on reducing obesity rates nationwide.   

Second Place–What’s a balanced carbohydrate?

Submitter: Flavia Fayet-Moore

Carbohydrate quality is known to highly influence health. Dietary fibre can reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases like obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, colorectal cancer, and improve gut function, while free sugars can promote weight gain and dental carries. Clear guidelines to increase dietary fibre and restrict free sugars are recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) due to the frequent consumption of low-quality carbohydrate foods being reported worldwide. Unfortunately, there is no scientific consensus on the best criteria to define carbohydrate quality and in practice, this has made choosing carbohydrate foods that are beneficial to our health difficult. Utilising the WHO recommendations and scientific evidence, a balanced carbohydrate ratio was developed by researchers at the Friedman School of Public Health at Tufts University to guide food product development and help consumers make healthy carbohydrate choices. Three ratios were developed based on the ratio of carbohydrate to fiber (simple ratio), carbohydrate to fibre and free sugars (modified ratio) and carbohydrate to fibre plus free sugars to fibre combined (dual ratio). They found that balanced carbohydrate products that satisfied the ratios had a consistently higher nutritional value.

Flavia Fayet-Moore, along with her team of highly skilled researchers at Nutrition Research Australia, applied the ratios to diets in Australia using the latest 2011-12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey, to determine whether a diet that meets a balanced carbohydrate ratio (simple, modified or dual ratio) is associated with improved nutrient intakes and diet quality. They also modelled diets to meet the three ratios to determine the impact of consuming foods that meet the ratios on estimated nutrient intakes. They found that adults who consumed a diet that met the dual ratio reported lower energy and free sugar intakes, higher fibre and micronutrient intakes and a higher Australian Healthy Eating Index score (diet quality), compared to those who failed to meet the ratio. The use of a balanced carbohydrate ratio, based on carbohydrate, fibre and free sugars, may offer a simple, standardised approach to improve diet quality by helping consumers choose balanced carbohydrate foods, which has potential for high public health impact. 

Third Place– Microbe Eats | OFFICIAL Music Video

Submitter: Lara Hyde

The Microbe Eats | OFFICIAL Music Video was created by Lara Hyde, PhD, in collaboration with Robbie Hyde and vocalists Laura Millar and Sarah Landry. The music video is a parody of Taylor Swift’s song “ME!”, shifting the focus from me to us – being you plus the trillions of bacteria that together comprise the microbiome. The goal of the video was to translate simple, evidence-based messages about how nutrient-dense foods can support a healthy, diverse microbiota. It can be challenging to make the “eat more fruits and veggies” message exciting, therefore this video frames in the context of a current hot topic – the microbiome. Through use of catchy music, upbeat dancing and an adorable furry microbe puppet, the video has potential to be attractive to a broad audience. Kids, adults and nutrition researchers alike may sing “eat the whole grain, fruits and veggies that your microbes need” when making food choices.

Lara earned her PhD in Biochemical and Molecular Nutrition from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. In 2017 she launched the YouTube channel Nourishable as an avenue for nutrition science communication. YouTube is the most used social media platform by US adults and the second most used search engine. The mission of Nourishable is to help viewers navigate facts behind the fads through engaging evidence-based videos. In a media landscape where everyone who eats promotes themselves as a nutrition expert, Nourishable offers an analytical and accessible approach to nutrition science for the public. That’s what science tastes like.

Contest Information

The competition is open to all ASN members and videos submitted to ASN are graded by a selection committee made up of members of the Public Information Committee on a number of factors, including accuracy of the nutrition science information communicated and the potential impact of the video on the lay public. Three prizes are awarded to teams ranging from 1 to 5 ASN members. The compelling prizes include complimentary membership in ASN for one year, registration to ASN’s annual meeting, or complimentary access to Nutrition On Demand. Winners also benefit from ASN’s promotion of the videos to a wide digital audience.

Since 2018, ASN has seen video submissions for the competition steadily increase; thus, the reach of ASN and its members and their research continue to grow to new audiences! Video topics cover a wide variety for nutrition research topics from community gardens, infant and toddler nutrition, and disaster nutrition to the gut microbiome. Learn more about the three winning videos from 2020!