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10 Servings of Food as Medicine

10 Servings of Food as Medicine

  • “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” --Hippocrates

  • Culinary Medicine Now on the Menu: The kitchen at Tulane teaches medical students and doctors culinary skills so they can help patients make practical dietary changes to improve their health. • Healthy cooking techniques are taught to medical students, residents, doctors, chefs, and members of the community. • Programming covers the significant role food plays in preventing and managing obesity and related diseases. • Tulane is the first medical school to have a full-time chef as an instructor. [1]

  • Medical Foods, as Defined by FDA: Not those simply recommended by a physician as part of an overall diet to manage the symptoms or reduce the risk of a disease or condition. • Specially formulated and processed for a patient who is seriously ill or who requires its use as a major component of a disease or condition’s specific dietary management. • Some medical foods and their uses: Theramine – low back pain, Fosteum – osteoporosis, Limbrel – osteoarthritis, Metanx – diabetic peripheral neuropathy. [2]

  • ABCs of Using Food as Medicine: Consider a whole-foods plant-based diet with minimal processed food and added sugar. • Use foods, not supplements, to treat and prevent chronic illness. • Combine a nutritional plan with a program to reduce stress and raise awareness about how and what to eat. • Encourage patients to experiment with various diets and foods and pay attention to the outcomes. • Help patients manage chronic conditions with nutrition, stress management, and exercise. [3]

  • Diet & CVD: What Physicians Think & Know: Physicians surveyed on knowledge of nutrition clinically relevant to cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevention. • Most recommended: (1) Mediterranean diet, (2) low-fat, (3) DASH, (4) low-glycemic index diets. • Rated nutrition as important as statins for CVD risk reduction, but only 13.5% said they were adequately trained to discuss nutrition with patients. • 64% of knowledge-based questions answered correctly. • Physicians think diet is important in CVD prevention, but practical knowledge and self-reported training in nutrition is suboptimal. [4]

  • Omega-6 CVD Efficacy in Question: Effect on CVD risk is controversial. • In a Cochrane review, investigators found no studies examining the effects of increased or decreased omega-6 on their primary outcome CVD clinical end points. • Evidence was insufficient to show an effect of increased or decreased omega-6 intake on CVD risk factors, such as blood lipids and blood pressure. [5]

  • Primary Care Light on Obesity Management: PCP assessment/behavioral management of overweight and obesity is lacking. • Just half record BMI regularly. • 70% have used pharmacologic treatments for overweight. • Research needed to understand care barriers, improve engagement. [6]

  • Double Down With Foods That Trim and Treat: For managing weight and preventing and treating chronic diseases, medical nutrition experts recommend: • Cough – buckwheat honey • Diarrhea – pickled foods • Menstrual cramps – ginger • IBS – peppermint • High blood pressure – hibiscus tea • High cholesterol – chia seeds • High LDL cholesterol – steel-cut oatmeal • High blood sugar – beans. [7]

  • Diners, Drive-ins, and…Joints: Eat to Beat Arthritis Pain: Good foods/ingredients: • Salmon, sardines, mackerel – omega-3 fatty acids • Green tea – nutrients, antioxidants • Dark chocolate – antioxidants • Berries – antioxidants • Apples – antioxidants, fiber • Canola, olive oils – omega-3, omega-6 acids • Ginger, turmeric – anti-inflammatory properties • Nuts –protein (high), saturated fats (low), cholesterol (zero) • Whole grains – nutrients, fiber • Salsa – vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants. [8]

  • Probiotics to Prevent, Treat Diarrhea: Probiotics were associated with a reduction in antibiotic-associated diarrhea in a meta-analysis of 63 RCTs. • Insufficient evidence to determine whether this association varies systematically by population, antibiotic characteristic, or probiotic preparation. • More research is needed to determine which probiotics are associated with the greatest efficacy and for which patients receiving which specific antibiotics. [9]

  • Mediterranean Diet Dims Macular Degeneration: Researchers examined association of adherence to the Mediterranean diet & genetic susceptibility with progression to advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD). • aMeDi score constructed from intakes of vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, nuts, fish, red and processed meats, and alcohol & ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fats. • Higher adherence to Mediterranean diet → reduced risk of progression to advanced AMD. [10]

Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” thousands of years ago. But the movement to treat patients with food has just now started to take hold. Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine became the first dedicated teaching kitchen at a medical school a few years ago, and other schools have adopted the program. The 2015 "Food = Medicine Conference" was just held in mid-November and physician attendees were eligble to receive AMA PRA Category 1 Credits.

Thanksgiving is a day for Americans to express gratitude for their blessings, and consume an abundance of food. Another reason for giving thanks at this time is the emergence of a new and promising approach to patient care: using food as medicine.

Click on the slides above to find the key ingredients of the food as medical treatment effort. (Reference links below.)


Harvard School of PH has "Healthy Kitchens" conferences twice a year, usually held at CIA in Napa, CA in the Spring. Highly recommend attending one, they are great.

Julie @

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