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Alison E. Field, ScD

Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Harvard Medical School

Staff Scientist
Children's Hospital Boston

Associate Epidemiologist
Brigham and Women's Hospital or

Research Interests

Dr. Fieldís research focuses on the modifiable causes, correlates, consequences, and course of overweight, weight gain, and disordered eating among children, adolescents, and adult women. At present, her research bases are the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, the Nursesí Health Study, the Nurses' Health Study II, and the Growing Up Today Study. The majority of her research has focused on children and adolescents, but she currently has a grant from NIH to study weight cycling and mortality among adult women in the Nursesí Health Study.

The Epidemiology of Weight Control Behaviors among Adolescents

Dr. Field is a co-founder of the Growing Up Today Study, which was established in 1996 to assess the predictors of dietary intake, activity, and weight gain during a four year period. Her research within the study is primarily related to the epidemiology of weight gain, weight concerns, weight control practices, and bulimic behaviors. She is the principal investigator on the NIH grant to continue following the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS) cohort from 2002 to 2007 to investigate determinants of binge eating, purging (i.e., use of vomiting or laxatives) and eating disorders of at least subsyndromal severity. Her work based on GUTS includes the only large-scale prospective analyses on the development of weight concerns and unhealthy weight control behaviors in males. The results suggest that weight concerns and eating disorders are more common than previously thought. Although fewer males than females are preoccupied with a desire to be thinner, a non-trivial number of males are preoccupied with a desire to have more or better defined muscles. The latter concern is rarely assessed in studies that include males. She has observed that correlates of using unhealthy means to gain weight, such as using steroids, are associated with the factors we have prospectively identified as being risk factors for using unhealthy means to lose weight, such as wanting to look like same-sex figures in the media, among the girls.

The Epidemiology of Weight Gain

Dr. Field and colleagues assessed prospectively the weight change patterns from 1996 to 1999 of frequent dieters compared to infrequent and never dieters in the Growing Up Today Study. She found that dieting was more common among the girls, but during three years of follow-up, male and female dieters gained significantly more weight than non-dieters. In addition, boys who engaged in binge eating gained significantly more weight than non-dieters. Dr. Field has also studied weight control behaviors and weight change among 2476 young and middle-aged women in the Nursesí Health Study II who provided information on intentional weight losses between 1989 and 1993 and returned a supplementary questionnaire in 2000-2001 on weight concerns, weight control behaviors and attitudes, binge eating and body weight. She observed that after controlling for age and BMI in 1993, when weight cycling was initially assessed, mild cyclers gained an average of 6.7 lb more and severe cyclers gained approximately 10.3 lb more than non-cyclers between 1993 and 2001. Weight cyclers preferred to change their diet rather than to exercise to control their weight. Severe weight cyclers were less likely than non-cyclers to use frequent exercise as a weight control strategy. Cyclers were also more likely than noncyclers to engage in binge eating. Independent of weight cycling status, age, and BMI, women who engaged in binge eating gained approximately 5 pounds more than their peers.

Selected Publications

Field AE, Cheung L, Wolf AM, Herzog DB, Gortmaker SL, Colditz GA. Exposure to the mass media and weight concerns among girs. Pediatrics 1999;103(3):E36. [abstract]

Field AE, Byers T, Hunter DJ, Laird NM, Manson JE, Williamson DF, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Weight cycling, weight gain, and risk of hypertension in women. Am J Epidemiol 1999;150(6):573-9. [abstract]

Field AE, Camargo CA, Taylor CB, Berkey CS, Colditz GA. Relation of peer and media influences to the development of purging behaviors among preadolescent and adolescent girls. Arch Ped Adol Med 1999;153:1184-89. [abstract]

Field AE, Camargo CA, Taylor CB, Berkey CS, Roberts SB, Colditz GA. Peer, parent, and media influences on the development of weight concerns and frequent dieting among preadolescent and adolescent girls and boys. Pediatrics 2001;107:54-60.[abstract]

Field AE, Coakley EH, Must A, Spadano JL, Laird N, Dietz WH, Rimm E, Colditz GA. Impact of overweight on the risk of developing chronic diseases during a 10-year period. Arch Intern Med 2001;161(13):1581-6.[abstract]

Field AE, Wing RR, Manson JE, Spiegelman DL, Willett WC. Relationship of a large weight loss to long-term weight change among young and middle-aged US women. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 2001;25(8):1113-21. [abstract]

Field AE, Austin SB, Taylor CB, Malspeis S, Rosner B, Rockett HR, Gillman MW, Colditz GA. The relation between dieting and weight change among preadolescents and adolescents. Pediatrics 2003;112:900-906. [abstract]

Field AE, Manson JE, Laird N, Williamson DF, Willett WC, Colditz GA. Weight cycling and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes among adult women in the United States. Obesity Research 2004;12:267-274. [abstract]

Field AE, Manson JE, Taylor CB, Willett WC, Colditz GA Association of weight change, weight control practices, and weight cycling among women in the Nursesí Health Study II. Int J Obesity 2004;28:1134-1142. [abstract]

Field AE, Austin SB, Gillman MW, Rosner B, Rockett HR, Colditz GA. Snack food intake does not predict weight change among children and adolescents. Int J Obesity 2004;28:1210-1216. [abstract]

Loud KJ, Gordon CM, Micheli LJ, Field AE. Correlates of stress fracture among preadolescent and adolescent girls. Pediatrics 2005;115:e399-e406. [abstract]

Field AE, Austin SB, Camargo CA, Taylor CB, Striegel-Moore RH, Loud KJ, Colditz GA. Exposure to the mass media, body shape concerns, and use of supplements to improve weight and shape among adolescent males and females. Pediatrics 2005;116(2):e214-e220. [abstract]

Field AE, Austin SB, Striegel-Moore RH , Taylor CB, Camargo CA, Laird N, Colditz GA. Weight concerns and weight control behaviors of adolescents and their mothers. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2005;159:1121-1126. [abstract]