UCSF to Lead 'Hungry for Change: Food Insecurity, Stress and Obesity'

Livestreamed Symposium Bridges Research, Policy and Activism

By Suzanne Leigh

UC San Francisco experts on hunger, obesity and nutrition will present the eleventh annual sugar, stress, environment and weight (SSEW) symposium on Wednesday, Oct. 25 at UCLA Ackerman Ballroom, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (PT). 

"Hungry for Change: Food Insecurity, Stress and Obesity" is headed by the UCSF Center for Obesity Assessment, Study and Treatment (COAST) and the UCLA School of Law Resnick Program for Food Policy and Law. It will unite researchers, health care providers and policy advocates from six UC campuses in a daylong conference focusing on food insecurity, stress, obesity and social equity.

Registration is free to the public. The event will be livestreamed on Twitter: @SSEWScience.

“This year, our annual obesity symposium takes a new turn,” said Elissa Epel, PhD, UCSF professor of psychiatry and director of COAST and the SSEW Initiative. “Our speakers are not just researchers. We are reaching into the community to bridge research, policy and activism. We now have a deep understanding of the common causes of the obesity and hunger epidemics, and the failures of weight loss attempts. Action is necessary, and the public must be informed.” 

Speakers and panelists will describe the pervasive and invisible impact of psychological stress, sugar and food insecurity on obesity. “The conference will encourage attendees and online viewers to consider changes they can make in their lives and communities, fueled by novel findings shared by diverse experts,” said Epel.

Highlights include:

  • In opening remarks, Neal Baer, MD, of UCLA, founder of actionlab.org, urges scientists, public health advocates and policy makers to address sugared drinks and related public health challenges.
  • Kelly Brownell, PhD, of Duke University, offers a new map for strategic research and global reduction in obesity.
  • Cindy Leung, ScD, MPH, UCSF and University of Michigan, provides a novel close up on the stress and stigma of hunger.
  • David Ludwig, MD, PhD, Harvard University and Boston Children's Hospital, reveals why traditional diets create hunger and ultimately fail, and discusses the role of sugars.
  • Hilary Seligman, MD, associate professor of medicine, and epidemiology and biostatistics, discusses the real cost of food insecurity on body and mind, and the most effective solutions.
  • Laura Schmidt, PhD, UCSF professor of health policy and SSEW Initiative co-director, moderates a panel discussion on the effects of food insecurity on low-income UC students.
  • Robert Lustig, MD, UCSF professor emeritus of pediatrics, Division of Endocrinology, moderates “The Hacking of the American Tastebud: Industry vs. Public Health,” a panel discussion on the sugar industry’s role in changing the American diet, the public health implications and backlash. The session will be livestreamed on Facebook from 3:00 to 3:30 p.m.

"Hungry For Change" is led by Epel, Schmidt and Samantha Schilf, executive director of the SSEW Initiative.