Walter Willett

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Walter Willett
Born (1945-06-20) June 20, 1945 (age 75)[1]
Spouse(s)Gail Pettiford Willett[2]
Scientific career
Fieldsnutrition, epidemiology, medicine, public health research

Walter C. Willett (born June 20, 1945,[1] in Hart, Michigan[4]), is an American physician and nutrition researcher. Currently, Willett is the Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and was the chair of its department of nutrition from 1991 to 2017.[5][6][7] He is also a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.[8]

Willett is the principal investigator of the second Nurses' Health Study (NHS2 or NHS II), a compilation of studies regarding the health of older women and their risk factors for major chronic diseases.[9] He has published more than 1,500 scientific articles regarding various aspects of diet and disease[10] and is the second most cited author in clinical medicine.[11]

Willett is perhaps best known for his 2001 book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, which presents nutritional information and recommendations based on what was then the consensus of nutrition scientists. His book is critical of many popular misconceptions about diet and nutrition, including ideas presented by guidelines from American organizations such as the USDA.[12] Willett is frequently quoted by the media in articles regarding nutrition.[13][14][15][16]

In 2016, Semantic Scholar AI program included Willett on its list of top ten most influential biomedical researchers.[17]


Willett at the Agriculture, Nutrition, Health, and the Environment in Africa conference in LMA, the 9th Annual Nutrition and Global Health Symposium, 2017
Willett (right with microphone) on panel on vegan nutrition at Harvard, 2017

Influence on Harvard meal plans and cafeterias[edit]

Willett has been actively involved in helping Harvard University food services to update their offerings along current nutritional guidelines. While his work has influenced the menu choices, students and Willett have noted that the menus still have a long way to go to reflect the currently available nutrition science.[6][18]


Willett's epidemiological research has been criticized by nutritionists and other researchers promoting an "obesity paradox" (Hughes, 2013). They believe he lacks a rigorous scientific base and often has contradictory findings.[19]

Published works[edit]

  • Nutritional Epidemiology 1998 ISBN 0-19-512297-6
  • Eat, Drink, and be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide To Healthy Eating 2005 ISBN 0-684-86337-5
  • Eat, Drink, and Weigh Less 2007 ISBN 1-4013-0892-9
  • The Fertility Diet 2008 ISBN 0-07-149479-0
  • More than 1,000 scientific articles[10]


  1. ^ a b "LC Linked Data Service: Authorities and Vocabularies (Library of Congress)".
  2. ^ Staff. Gail Willett’s recipe for lentil nut laof with red pepper sauce. July 29, 2013
  3. ^ Pioneering bookstore in Harvard Sq. to close. The Boston Globe (Boston, MA)January 21, 1996.
  4. ^ "Honda Worldwide | September 29, 2004 "Honda Prize Awarded to Dr. Walter C. Willet"". Retrieved 2011-06-08.
  5. ^ Harvard School of Public Health, "Prof. Frank Hu assumes Chair of Department of Nutrition". Retrieved 14th April 2017.
  6. ^ a b Burros, Marian (2003-11-19). "EATING WELL; At a Harvard Cafe, Health for Lunch". The New York Times. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  7. ^ "Walter Willett". Harvard University. Harvard University. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Walter C. Willett, MD, Dr.PH". BCRF: Breast Cancer Research Foundation. 2014-06-23. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  9. ^ "The Nurses' Health Study". Harvard University. Harvard University. Retrieved 27 February 2016.
  10. ^ a b "NCBI search". 2017-04-14. Retrieved 2017-04-14.
  11. ^ "First Bimonthly Period of 2007 - Top 10 Researchers In Clinical Medicine". in-cites. Retrieved 2011-06-08.
  12. ^ HPH NOW, August 24, 2001, Nutrition Book Author Willett Rebuilds USDA Food Pyramid Archived September 3, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ A reversal on carbs, Marni Jameson, Los Angeles Times, December 20, 2010.
  14. ^ Taking Diet Soda Study with a Grain of Salt, ABC News, February 8, 2011.
  15. ^ Interview: Walter Willett, M.D., PBS Frontline, April 8, 2004.
  16. ^ The truth on foods and fats, Amanda Spake, U.S. News & World Report, July 4, 2004.
  17. ^ ChawlaOct. 17, Dalmeet Singh; 2017; Pm, 4:20 (2017-10-17). "Who's the most influential biomedical scientist? Computer program guided by artificial intelligence says it knows". Science | AAAS. Retrieved 2020-09-22.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ At Harvard, Whole-Grain Concerns, Candy Sagon, Washington Post, March 8, 2006.
  19. ^ Hughes, Virginia (May 22, 2013). "The big fat truth". Nature. Macmillan. 497 (7450): 428–430. Bibcode:2013Natur.497..428H. doi:10.1038/497428a. PMID 23698426. S2CID 4407621.

Further reading[edit]