Michelle Wien '78, '93, Foods & Nutrition
Program Dietitian and Researcher for City of Hope National Medical Center
|Following her teaching experience, Dr. Ray Dutra, one of Wien's professors, encouraged her to pursue a doctoral degree and compete for tenure-track positions. She was accepted into Loma Linda University's doctor of public health program.
In our fitness conscious environment, it seems that everyone has been on or knows of the ultimate diet. Terms such as "low carb" and "portion control" have seeped into our everyday lexicon, and with them, a smattering of knowledge (accurate or not) about what we should or should not eat. We might even say, "Hold the almonds," when ordering our health-conscious Chinese chicken salad. That, according to alumna Michelle Ann Wien, might be a mistake.
Wien, the program dietitian for the City of Hope National Medical Center's Diabetes and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction Program (D&CVRRP) since 1992, has carried out extensive research on the efficacy of adding tree nuts into her patients' 1,000 calorie per day diets.
"For many years my patients complained about the lack of 'crunch' in their diets, despite the freedom to eat salads and vegetables ad lib," explains Wien, who was encouraged to consider nuts by Dr. Joan Sabate, a world-renowned nut researcher and Loma Linda University faculty member. "After a thorough review of nutritional characteristics, I felt that the high level of monounsaturated fat (oleic acid) found in almonds might lead to improvements in heart disease risk factors for my overweight and obese patients."
Wien's study followed 65 patients for six months, monitoring cholesterol level changes during weight reduction and comparing patients who consumed high protein shakes and three ounces of almonds daily versus patients who consumed high protein shakes and an equivalent amount of calories from complex carbohydrates such as peas, popcorn, crackers, etc. The result? Although both patient groups improved their cholesterol profiles, the almond group unexpectedly lost significantly more weight than the complex carbohydrate group.
"And the subjects are no longer complaining about the lack of 'crunch' in their diets," Wien adds.
The news raced through the medical community. Wien's research findings were published in the November 2003 issue of International Journal of Obesity and were also featured on a "Nutrition Nation" segment of the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw in February 2004. Wien has recently been on a dizzying worldwide tour to disseminate her research results at scientific conferences throughout the country as well as in London, Rome, Munich, Mazatlan and New Delhi. But this, Wien says, is just the beginning of her studies.
"I am also interested in studying the effectiveness of consuming nuts in the context of weight maintenance after successful weight loss," she states. "Portion-controlled amounts of nuts might help people be more successful in keeping hunger at bay and pounds off after successful weight loss."
Wien first became interested in nutrition following the completion of a high school biology report on vitamins. She graduated from Cal Poly Pomona with a bachelor's in foods & nutrition in 1978, following with an master's in the same subject in 1993. Being a returning student, she says, was delightful.
"The master's courses were small in size, which offered optimal student-to-faculty ratios," says Wien. "In addition, I was given the opportunity to become a teaching associate at Cal Poly Pomona, which let me parlay my 10 years of hands-on experience into teaching the medical nutrition therapy courses."
Her university experience wasn't all laboratories, though. Wien was heavily involved with the Cal Poly Rose Float Club as a student and also served on the Rose Float Committee.
"My social circle continues to involve many people I met through my Rose Float volunteer efforts," says Wien, noting that she has remained close to one person in particular. "I met my husband when we worked on the Rose Float."
Isn't that the nuttiest?