McGillX: CHEM181x: Food for Thought

School: McGillX
Course Code: CHEM181x
Classes Start: 22 Jan 2014
Course Length: 14 weeks
Estimated effort: 5 hours per week



McGillX: CHEM181x - Food for Thought

Food for Thought

A course that offers a scientific framework for understanding food and its impact on health and society from past to present.

About this Course

Eating and understanding the nuances of food has become a complicated and often confusing experience. Virtually every day brings news about some “miracle food” that we should be consuming or some "poison" we should be avoiding. One day it's tomatoes to prevent cancer, then flaxseed against heart disease or soybeans for menopause. At the same time we may be warned about trans fats, genetically modified foods, aspartame or MSG. Dietary supplements may be touted as the key to health or a factor in morbidity. According to some, dairy products are indispensable while others urge us to avoid them. The same goes for meat, wheat and soy; the list goes on. This course will shed light on the molecules that constitute our macro and micro nutrients and will attempt to clarify a number of the food issues using the best science available. Other topics to be presented will include the diet-cancer relationship, the link between diet and cardiovascular disease, food-borne illnesses, food additives and weight control.

Ways to take this edX course:

Simply Audit this Course

Audit this course for free and have complete access to all of the course material, tests, and the online discussion forum. You decide what and how much you want to do.


Try for a Certificate

Looking to test your mettle? Participate in all of the course's activities and abide by the edX Honor Code. If your work is satisfactory, you'll receive a personalized certificate to showcase your achievement.

Course Staff

  • Ariel Fenster

    Ariel Fenster

    Ariel Fenster is well known as an exceptional promoter of science with an extensive program, developed over three decades. In that period, he has given well over 800 public presentations in English and in French across North America and Overseas. He appears regularly on TV and radio to discuss health, environmental and technology issues and has presented numerous science segments for children's television. His contributions to teaching, and to the popularization of science, have been recognized by numerous awards. Among them: the McNeil Medal for the Public Awareness of Science from the Royal Society of Canada (1992, inaugural award) and the Michael Smith Award for the Promotion of Science in Canada from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (2005).

  • David N. Harpp

    David N. Harpp

    David N. Harpp is the Sir William Macdonald Professor of Chemistry at McGill University.  His research interests are centered on organosulfur and selenium molecules, teaching innovations, and academic integrity issues.  He has published over 230 research articles in refereed journals including over 20 on teaching. In addition to having made nearly 600 presentations at conferences, universities, schools and interest groups, he has received over a dozen local, national and international awards for research, teaching and science promotion.  These include the inaugural American Chemical Society’s Edward Leete Award for Excellence in Teaching and Research (1995) and the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for Leadership in Learning at McGill University (2010) and two honorary doctorate degrees (Acadia University, 2000, and University of Guelph, 2012).

  • Joe Schwarcz

    Joe Schwarcz

    Joe Schwarcz is Director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society. He is well known for his informative and entertaining public lectures on topics ranging from the chemistry of love to the science of aging.  Professor Schwarcz has received numerous awards for teaching chemistry and for interpreting science for the public and is the only non-American ever to win the American Chemical Society’s prestigious Grady-Stack Award for demystifying chemistry.  He hosts "The Dr. Joe Show" on Montreal's CJAD and has appeared hundreds of times on Discovery Channel, CTV, CBC, TV Ontario and Global Television.  Dr. Schwarcz also writes a newspaper column entitled “The Right Chemistry” and has authored a number of books. Dr. Schwarcz has been awarded the 2010 Montreal Medal which is the Canadian Chemical Institute’s premier prize recognizing lifetime contributions to chemistry in Canada.