Amy Berger ’12 has done what many a UB student aspires to do – turn their thesis project into a career stepping stone. In Berger’s case, she turned her master’s thesis as a graduate student in the Nutrition Institute into an e-book that will soon be released in print form by Chelsea Green Publishing in March 2017. Along the way, she picked up a foreword from David Perlmutter, MD, author of the New York Times bestseller Grain Brain, and book endorsements from Robb Wolf, author of The Paleo Solution, Jason Fung, MD, author of The Obesity Code, Franziska Spritzler, RD, and other prominent names in the nutrition field.
We asked Berger, who posts regularly on her blog Tuit Nutrition, to work with us on a Q&A to share more about her upcoming book with the UB community.
Q. What brought you to the University of Bridgeport’s Nutrition Institute?
A. I chose UB because it was one of the few schools that had a fully accredited master’s in nutrition that I could complete online. But even more important than the convenience factor, I knew at UB I would not be presented with the conventional nutritional dogma which has been steadily crumbling over the last twenty years or so. Knowing that UB has one of the few accredited naturopathic medical schools in the country, I believed my education wouldn’t be governed by the pharmaceutical or processed food industries, and that was very important to me. I had already learned a great deal about nutrition on my own and was looking to deepen my knowledge and earn professional credentials via a formal education experience, and I would not, in good conscience, have been able to complete a program that parroted information I knew to be factually incorrect and scientifically unsound. (For example, that everyone should base their diet on starchy carbohydrates.)
I also really liked that UB’s nutrition program was designed for busy professionals and the coursework took that into account. Additionally, my fellow students were a great mix of people who were there simply for personal enrichment as well as professionals already working in the health and nutrition industries (including nurses, registered dietitians, and chiropractors). Many of us were “career changers” and weren’t starting right out of undergrad. We had jobs, families, and other obligations, and it was nice to be with adult students who could relate to the balancing act.
Q. What attracted you to the field of nutrition?
Like so many people, I struggled with my weight for most of my life despite doing “all the right things” in terms of exercise and a healthy diet. After spending many years following a low-fat diet and doing lots of exercise — including completing two marathons — yet not seeing any change in my physique, I finally realized that two and two weren’t adding up to four. Something just wasn’t right. I dove into nutrition research and came to learn that much of what we’ve been told about weight loss and good nutrition is, at best, misguided and incomplete, and, at worst, flat-out wrong. I changed my diet radically, shifting away from low fat, low calorie foods and embracing a higher fat, low carbohydrate way of eating, and the results finally came. Having learned this lesson the hard way, I realized I could spare others the same fate by getting formal education, training in nutrition, and making it my profession.
Q. What made you interested in the Alzheimer’s condition specifically?
A. Along my health education journey, I read the book Good Calories, Bad Calories, by Gary Taubes. The book contained a chapter on dementia, linking it to problems with insulin and glucose processing in the brain. It was the first time I’d ever heard of such a connection, but not having any family history of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, I filed it away in the back of my mind as something intriguing to study more at a later time.
When it came time for me to choose a topic for my master’s thesis at UB, I circled back to see if there was enough information on Alzheimer’s for me to do an in-depth research project. When I started searching the medical and scientific journals, I was stunned by what I found. There is most definitely a link between insulin resistance, impaired glucose metabolism in the brain, and Alzheimer’s disease, to the point that researchers now regularly refer to it as “type 3 diabetes” or “diabetes of the brain.”
There’s a great deal we don’t understand about Alzheimer’s, and certainly decades of research still ahead of us, but that doesn’t mean we have no actionable information right now. Based on an understanding of Alzheimer’s disease as a systemic metabolic problem, rather than some unknowable and completely mysterious illness localized solely to the brain, there are dietary and lifestyle interventions that hold great promise in slowing disease progression and possibly even reversing it to some extent. Considering that all pharmaceutical drugs developed to date for Alzheimer’s have been disappointing and have done almost nothing to delay, stop, or reverse the condition, exploring alternative methods is long overdue.
The more I read about this issue, the more fascinated I became, and the more infuriated as well, as this potentially lifesaving information does no good languishing in esoteric neurology journals. The people who need it most — Alzheimer’s sufferers and their loved ones and caregivers — don’t have time to sift through those papers and make sense of the scientific jargon. I felt compelled to share this knowledge so those in need can do something about memory loss and cognitive decline and become empowered. I expanded my UB thesis into an e-book that is available through my website, tuitnutrition.com.
Q. Please walk us through your career path from UB to present day.
When I graduated from UB I was working for the Department of Defense, which is work completely unrelated to nutrition. My goal was to become a nutritionist either in private practice or through joining an existing medical practice / wellness center that was looking to bring on an in-house nutritionist. I also knew I wanted to keep writing, because that would be the best way for me to reach a large number of people with my message on food and health. I’m doing both of those now, but it didn’t happen overnight. I continued to work my “day job” for three years before I was earning enough as a writer to be able to transition to both writing and nutrition full-time.
With undergraduate degrees in creative writing and Spanish, a master’s in human nutrition, having served in the U.S. Air Force, and having spent time working on farms, I certainly have an eclectic background. I guess you could say that, at a couple years shy of forty, I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. In the current stop along this twisty professional trajectory, I’m a nutritionist and freelance writer in the fields of health and nutrition. This is a perfect fit, as I get to combine my passion for food and nutrition with my first love, writing.
Q. Was there anything you learned at UB that still inspires you in your work today?
A. I credit my professors at UB with giving me strong foundations in anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry, which enable me to understand the complex mechanisms at work in the Alzheimer’s brain. The education I received from the UB faculty — practitioners with experience in the field — gave me the background to interpret the scientific literature intelligently and with a critical eye, and to question the conventional wisdom and prevailing paradigms. Because of the fundamentals I learned at UB, I can confidently separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to nutrition headlines, many of which contradict each other daily, and I am no longer fooled by irrational clickbait headlines and TV news sound bites. My goal now as a writer and nutritionist is to help other people do the same, so they can make informed decisions at the grocery store and at the dinner table. I try to stay true to the motto on my website: A source of sanity in the sea of nutritional madness.
What I loved most about my professors – all of them – is that even though they’d been teaching for years (decades, in some cases), they were still fascinated about new developments and discoveries and brought that energy and spark to the classroom. I was fearing the biochem classes would be really challenging for me, but it turns out they were what I loved most, and that’s a direct reflection of my professors’ passion for what they did and how that rubbed off on students like myself.
Q. Tell us how your website led to this publishing opportunity.
A. I started my website before I graduated from UB. I like to think of the blog component of my site as a free class in basic physiology and biochemistry. I believe there are millions of people caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment, or some other form of dementia who are interested in this material, so I chose to write a relatively small and simple e-book as a place to start. It was my hope that a publisher might see it and express an interest, but that was really just a pipe dream. The fact that it’s come to pass is still a bit surreal to me!
There’s a saying that great things come from humble origins. If my UB thesis can be considered a humble origin, then the great thing is my book, The Alzheimer’s Antidote – Using a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet to Fight Alzheimer’s Disease, Memory Loss, and Cognitive Decline, that my my thesis has morphed into. This edition has now been completely rewritten and expanded as a print book from a major publisher, with the most current data and latest findings — all of which only strengthen the central argument that there is something we can do to combat this illness, and that while many questions remain, we need not feel paralyzed and helpless.
Connect With Me Today
For more of my work, visit me at www.tuitnutrition.com. There I focus on low carbohydrate, ketogenic, and Paleo-style nutrition, and also write about a diverse array of topics including digestion, thyroid function, diabetes, cholesterol, and more.
If you are looking to get started with one of these dietary approaches, or if you’re already eating this way but not getting the results you’ve been hoping for, feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter: @TuitNutrition.