Food as Medicine – Nutrition in Health & Healthcare

Thank you Neal D. Barnard, MD, for speaking out to your physician colleagues about the important role of nutrition in health and in healthcare!! Included in the immediate steps Barnard recommends: (1) Nutrition should be a required part of continuing medical education (CME) for physicians everywhere. (2) Physicians should work with registered dietitians. … they [physicians] must recognize the role nutrition plays in disease, communicate it clearly to the patient, & refer the patient appropriately. (3) As physicians learn to talk with patients about nutrition, they must also practice what they preach. (4) Beyond medical practice, there is also a need for healthier foods in schools, hospitals, & workplace, as well as better governmental food policies. The medical community can support all of these.

Along with Dr. Barnard, other physicians are emphasizing the importance of food and nutrition in promoting and preserving health and function. Mark Hyman, MD, has written a number of helpful books, including FOOD—WHAT THE HECK SHOULD I EAT? And his current podcast series titled “The Doctor’s Farmacy” is filled with useful information and practical tips. Hyman’s podcast interview with EAT TO LIVE author William Li, MD (link to provided much “food for thought” about the protective substances (phytochemicals) in the food we eat. And Peter Attia, MD, is another physician promoting the importance of healthy food choices for optimum health and physical functioning. Attia’s recent podcast interview with THE OBESITY CODE author Jason Fung, MD, provided important perspective on the role of insulin in weight control and chronic disease prevention.

For me, a Registered Dietitian who has worked for decades in nutrition research, it is encouraging to witness the increasing appreciation in the healthcare community of the role of food and nutrition in health promotion and disease prevention. Yet, even with the huge escalation of published clinical research to help inform and direct both personal and public decision-making regarding dietary guidance, the United States still only “invests a fraction of a cent on nutrition research for each dollar spent on treatment of diet-related chronic disease”. So we can celebrate the progress to date, and continue to advocate for research, programs, and policies that will support improved nutritional status throughout our population.

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