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Syllabuzz: GST 368 - Nutrition in the 21st Century

A spotlight on some of the interesting courses faculty are teaching at Elon.

Obesity is on the rise in the United States. Meanwhile, millions of people around the world are malnourished or die of hunger every day.

How can we reconcile these facts? What can we learn, if anything, from cultural and societal trends related to nutrition, and what can we do as individuals about global hunger?

These are some of the issues Barry Beedle, professor of exercise science, addresses in his Nutrition in the 21st Century course, a new take on the Science of Nutrients class he has taught for years. Topics of emphasis include the role nutrition plays in helping cognitive, emotional and physical function; trends and controversies related to nutrition around the world; and ways this knowledge can shed light on issues such as renewable resources, organic farming, food insecurity and terrorism.

Students begin by focusing attention on their own eating habits and nutritional needs. Beedle assigns articles about practical skills, such as reading and understanding food labels and writing reflection papers about their diets. While nutrition has become a popular topic in mainstream America in recent years – stories highlighting the benefits or downsides of consuming certain foods are commonplace in news and talk shows – Beedle says it seldom translates to positive changes at the personal level.

“You need to think about what you eat. You need variety among and within each food group,” he says. Eating salads every day, for example, doesn’t provide the necessary variety.

The course then turns to broader issues related to nutrition. For instance, students might study the use of botany as medicine in Central and South America, the function of certain foods as health boosters and the relationship between diets and chronic diseases. Elon’s emphasis on study abroad means many of these students have seen other parts of the world, an experience Beedle says helps them make better connections with the course material.

Beedle taught the class online this summer, so many of his students completed the assignments while traveling or working outside of Elon. He says he hopes students complete the course with a better knowledge of nutrition that they can apply in their personal and professional lives.

“I want them to understand the relationship of food and cultures and to integrate that knowledge into being good global citizens,” Beedle says.

About the professor

Beedle has been a member of the Elon faculty for 34 years. He has taught a variety of courses, including physiology exercise, research methods and senior seminar. His research interests focus on physical fitness testing and training.

Recommended readings

  • Nutrition: An Applied Approach by Janice Thompson and Melinda Manore
  • Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Elson Haas with Buck Levin
  • Food Smart: Understanding Nutrition in the 21st Century by Diana Hunter

Syllabuzz is a recurrent feature in The Magazine of Elon. To read the latest edition, click here.

Keren Rivas,
11/26/2012 11:47 AM