Food As Medicine Movement Gaining Wider Acceptance

You are what you eat.  Mom had it right all those years ago and medical research may be finally catching up to conventional wisdom from a simpler time.  A new approach to treating chronically ill patients using food as medicine is gaining wider acceptance as studies explore how tailored nutrition can manage symptoms and help the body fight back. 

A study underway at the University of California and Stanford will evaluate whether providing a healthy diet and education about good nutrition will have an effect on the long-term health of patients with Type 2 diabetes or congestive heart failure.  According to a recent New York Times report, by providing low-income patients with prepared healthy foods, chronic illnesses can be better managed and costs of readmission to hospital or long-term care could be significantly reduced.  Less worried about the cost and effort of preparing nutritious food, study participants may be more likely to adhere to their medication regime and improve their overall health outcomes.

Whether recovering from cancer treatment or hepatitis C, when you don’t feel well, preparing healthy meals may be the last thing you want to think about.  By providing nutritious meals to low-income patients, the need for expensive medical interventions could reduced, saving countless health care dollars.  In a smaller California study of HIV and Type 2 diabetes patients, those who received healthy prepared meals for six months were found to be less depressed and less likely to be seen back in the Emergency Room.  And the entire cost of food for one patient for the six months was less than half the cost of a day’s stay in hospital.

Using food to heal critically ill patients has been the mission of the Ceres Community Project in Marin and Sonoma counties where teen chefs prepare and deliver organic meals to low income neighbors.  Nearly 80 per cent of cancer patients become malnourished and by providing nutritious meals, not only can stress and isolation be reduced but long-term health outcomes are improved.  

Healthy, nutrient-rich meals that help the body fight chronic illness include unprocessed fresh, whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains.   The New American Plate, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, should be covered 2/3 with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans with 1/3 or less left for animal protein.   Super foods like vegetable broth, fermented foods such as sauerkraut and mushrooms have been demonstrated to be effective in helping boost the body’s immune system response.  And in research published in the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology, by switching to a whole-food plant diet, cardiovascular disease in patients could be “profoundly improved.”  Read more about diet’s affect on heart disease by following this link to National Institutes of Health.