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New Insights into Disordered Eating, Flu News, and Munching Weeds

Munching Weeds

At a time when concern about the environmental impact of chemicals is growing, land managers across the U.S. are increasingly turning to livestock to manage unwanted weed growth. Known as “prescribed grazing,” the practice uses cattle, sheep, goats, and horses to eat undesired plants, weeding out invasive species and removing potential fire risks. Now, researchers at the U of M’s College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) are working to determine if the practice is effective. 

After examining 70 different studies, the meta-analysis found that prescribed grazing—also known as “targeted grazing”— significantly reduces the amount of undesired vegetation while increasing the varieties of plants in any given area, which improves biodiversity. Unanswered questions include whether prescribed grazing is effective in controlling both native and non-native species of plants. Also, since monitoring usually ended when the studies concluded, it’s not yet clear if using livestock provides lasting benefits to the land once the animals are back in the barn. 

“Trying to control invasive plants is one of the biggest challenges in land management and ecological restoration,” says Daniel Larkin, assistant professor in CFANS. “Employing livestock to aid in this effort is appealing, but we need a stronger scientific foundation to know when and where it’s the right approach.” This study was published in the May 27 issue of Restorative Ecology.

New Insights into Disordered Eating

To some, body dissatisfaction and disordered eating—behaviors that include frequent dieting, binge eating, or feelings of guilt and shame associated with eating—may seem like conditions that mostly afflict middle- and upper-class adolescents. However, research from the U of M’s School of Public Health finds that these challenges are not only widespread among young people, but also occur in teenagers and emerging adults across the socioeconomic spectrum, with some behaviors being most prevalent among adolescents from low socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds. 

Researchers examined data from Project Eat’s 2010-2018 study, which tracked the general health and well-being of teenagers as they grow. Led by SPH Professor Dianne-Neumark-Sztainer, the study was designed to identify factors that can be addressed with public health measures to help prevent and reduce the societal challenges associated with weight-related problems. 

The study found that among females, unhealthy weight control behaviors (i.e. skipping meals) and weight management lifestyle behaviors (including exercise) are more common amongst middle- and upper-SES backgrounds. But for males, dieting and unhealthy weight control behaviors, such as taking diet pills, are more common amongst individuals from a lower SES. 

“There is a need to increase the reach and relevance of efforts to prevent body dissatisfaction and disordered eating to ensure efforts benefit young people across SES groups,” says SPH researcher Nicole Larson, the study’s lead author. “In particular, it is important that intervention curricula designed to promote healthy eating and activity behaviors include messages regarding the health consequences of disordered eating.” 

This study appeared in the August 2021 issue of Eating Behaviors.

Flu News

New research from the School of Public Health shows that when it comes to seasonal flu, going to a doctor’s office directly after a patient who has the flu can put you at risk of contracting the disease. 

“It’s a widely accepted fact that patients can acquire infections in hospital settings, but we show that infection transmission can happen when you visit your doctor’s office, too,” says the study’s author, SPH Assistant Professor Hannah Neprash. The study is the first of its kind to examine flu transmission in a doctor’s office. 

Using insurance claims and electronic health data provided by health care network athenahealth, researchers found patients exposed to the flu at their primary care physician’s office were 31.8 percent more likely than unexposed patients to come back to the office with the flu within two weeks. However, patients were not more likely to return when their appointment followed a patient with noncontagious conditions. 

The findings may point to the need to promote telemedicine for people suffering from the flu and other viral respiratory ailments. “Our findings highlight the importance of infection control practices and continued access to telemedicine services, as health care begins to return to pre-pandemic patterns,” says Neprash. 

This research was originally published in the August 2021 issue of Health Affairs.

Our continued thanks to the folks at University Public Relations for their help compiling these updates.

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