The Center for Food As Medicine and the Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center released its first ever, academic review and report of the food as medicine movement, titled “Food As Medicine: How Food and Diet Impact the Treatment of Disease and Disease Management.”
There is overwhelming evidence demonstrating the impact of food and diet on health, specifically among food-related diseases. Whether or not a poor diet can cause damage to the body should no longer be debated, as evidence supports the potential causal relationships between dietary factors and diet-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.
While diet has the potential to cause disease, it is also capable of building, maintaining and restoring health. The report aims to bridge the gap between traditional medicine and the use of food as medicine in the prevention and treatment of disease.
About the review
The review and report is divided into five parts, including:
1) background information on the history of using food to treat disease
2) modern challenges to widespread use and acceptance of food as medicine practices
3) current evidence about contemporary food as medicine practices (such as medically tailored meals, produce prescriptions, and functional foods)
4) literature review of food as treatment for specific disease states
5) recommendations to stakeholders (including policymakers, health care professionals, and academics) to contribute to a healthier, more equitable health care system.
The key findings
- Many medical schools across the country do not require that students take basic nutrition courses, leading to a lack of confidence and knowledge among health care providers when speaking to patients about using food as a treatment to manage disease.
- Social media has facilitated the “hijacking” of food as medicine as a disease treatment, co-opting it into a pseudoscientific alternative medicine, alienating many health care providers from adopting food as medicine programs and policies.
- Websites with evidence-based content coexist with those containing inaccurate, incomplete, or misleading information, making it difficult for the public to decipher information about the role of food in the prevention and treatment of disease.
- The increased popularity of dietary supplements, paired with a lack of regulation from the U.S. federal government regarding what many supplements contain, has caused confusion among consumers and patients about the impact of their consumption habits on disease.
- The American Dietary Guidelines have long been influenced by large food corporations and interest groups, and they do not always reflect the state of the science regarding the relationship between diet and health. These guidelines are important, because they influence the nutritional standards of meals and foods provided across the country.
- Marketing and health claims printed on packaged food available at the store can confuse consumers’ understanding of the impact of food and diet on disease.
- Research funded by the food industry has skewed public understanding of the impacts of certain foods on individual health.
- Food as medicine interventions and programs need increased government funding and support to maximize their positive impact on food insecurity and public health. This includes:
- There is a large amount of research available to demonstrate the efficacy of different foods and dietary interventions on specific diseases and conditions. However, more robust clinical trials are needed to provide comprehensive evidence on the effectiveness of diet in the treatment of a variety of disease states.
Source: Center for Food as Medicine, March 29, 2022.
All research on this web site is the property of Leslie Beck Nutrition Consulting Inc. and is protected by copyright. Keep in mind that research on these matters continues daily and is subject to change. The information presented is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. It is intended to provide ongoing support of your healthy lifestyle practices.