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Walter Willett’s food fight

The world’s most influential nutritionist is waging a war against unhealthy eating, obesity, and, every once in a while, his fellow researchers.

SLENDER CELEBRITY CHEF RICK BAYLESS, the goateed enchilada evangelist who has transformed Mexican street food into fine dining, stands at the back of the Regattabar, near the full-length windows overlooking Harvard Square. Several people encircle him, straining to hear his voice over the din of the cocktail party, which caps the first day of a major food-industry conference being held here.

To the average foodie dropping in on this June evening, Bayless would be the biggest name in the room. He’s got his long-running PBS cooking show, a win on Top Chef Masters, and the standing that comes from owning one of the Obamas’ favorite restaurants in Chicago. But the savviest industry insiders — the power players here from multinational giants like Unilever and McDonald’s — know there is a far more important get: a soft-spoken Harvard professor named Walter Willett.

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