Dr. Field's research focuses on the modifiable causes, correlates, consequences, and course of overweight, weight gain, unhealthy eating patterns, bulimic behaviors, and eating disorders among children, adolescents, and adult women.
She is a co-founder and former co-Director of the Growing Up Today Study, which was established in 1996 to assess the predictors of dietary intake, activity, and weight gain among children and adolescents during a four year period. Her research within the study is primarily related to the epidemiology of weight gain, obesity, weight concerns, bulimic behaviors and eating disorders. She has published extensively on risk factors for developing bulimic behaviors and obesity among the youth in the cohort. Currently she has one R01 from the NIMH to investigate how eating disorders should be best classified. As part of that project she is evaluating the current DSM-IV criteria and the proposed DSM-5 criteria, as well as empirically deriving a classification. All of these classifications are being evaluated among the 16,882 adolescents and young adults in GUTS. She found that bulimia nervosa (BN) affected approximately 1% of adolescent females; however, another 2-3% purge but do not binge eat (i.e., purging disorder, PD) and another 2-3% binge eat but do not purge (i.e., binge eating disorder, BED). Thus, the DSM-IV classification missed most eating disorders. PD is part of the large eating disorders not otherwise specified group in DSM-IV. The data suggests that PD is much more common than BN, but is similar to BN in terms of being associated with greater risk of starting to use drugs (odds ratio (OR)=1.7) and starting to binge drink frequently (OR=1.8).
In addition, she has a R01 from the NIDDK to continue following the 10,442 participants in the Growing Up Today Study (GUTS) II cohort to assess the independent and joint associations of intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened coffee drinks) and prepared foods with waist circumference, hypertension, BMI gain and the development of obesity. She is also mentoring a student investigating how non-hunger cues to eat, emotional and externally-induced eating, are related to weight status. She has found that emotional eating is strongly related to overweight, but externally induced eating is not. The role of non-hunger cues to eat is a growing area of interest to her. Not only will she be evaluating it in the GUTS II cohort as part of a R01, but also she is in the process of evaluating a smartphone app to track conscious and unconscious non-hunger cues to eat.
About Alison Field
Alison Field received her ScD from Harvard School of Public Health. In addition to her appointment at Boston Children's Hospital, she is an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and an Associate Epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital.