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The Need for Nutrition: How Prevention could be the Cure

Updated: Mar 18, 2020

Ellie Chivers discovers how some doctors are offering nutritional solutions to support long term health benefits and help minimise chronic diseases.

Photo by Eiliv Sonas Aceron

It’s drummed into us from an early age that we need to live healthy, balanced lifestyles. But ensuring you adopt a nutritional diet means more than just looking good; it keeps your body, your health and your mind in check.

Nutritious diets are more and more frequently being prescribed medically. Known as ‘lifestyle medicine’, nutritious diets are being prescribed to prevent contracting even some of the world’s most horrible diseases. The lack of focus on nutrition at medical schools might explain this phenomenon.

The First Practitioners in Lifestyle Medicine

In Greenville, South Carolina, Dr Beth Morris is the first ever physician board-certified in lifestyle medicine. Dr Morris prescribes patients lifestyle interventions to help to prevent, or even cure, diseases, and aims to raise awareness of how simple things in patients’ day-to-day lives and diets can affect their health. While she has highlighted exercise, sleep and stress management as significant in helping tackle disease, the importance of nutrition cannot be understated.

There are numerous diseases that can be prevented by healthy eating; even the chances of contracting cancer, strokes and heart diseases are diminished by opting for a more nutritious diet.

The Importance of going Plant-Based

Dr Morris has also highlighted the benefits of a plant-based diet:

“if people want to lose weight in the context of minimising chronic disease down the road, a plant-based diet is the way to go…what sets a plant-based diet apart is that it’s the only diet pretty much where it’s not based on restrictions. It’s easy to adhere to because people are not left hungry”.

There are more vegan Brits than ever these days, which in turn means it’s easier to switch to a plant-based lifestyle – brands are reacting to the rise in awareness of this diet, and are providing vegan alternatives, such as KFC releasing their vegan "chicken" burger in 2019.

Where’s the Nutrition at Medical Schools?

While many of us are aware of the connection between nutritious diets and healthy living, some in the know claim even they don’t know enough about nutrition.

In 2018, the BBC revealed that medical students in the UK are only taught between 10 and 24 hours of content based on nutrition across a five or six year course.

The General Medical Council, who publish guidance and standards for medical schools across the UK, have since set up a review of their training to determine whether nutrition should be given more focus during medical courses.

A boost in the emphasis placed on nutrition within medical schools’ curriculum would be backed by a number of medical professionals. Professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University, Sara Sidelmann, claims health’s future is about a focus on nutrition to prevent disease.

Are Nutritionists the Future?

While we learned a long time ago that too much chocolate is bad and eating your 5-a-day is ideal, it could be suggested that it’s time we went back to basics when it comes to nutrition. The importance of some of the fundamental foundations of basic healthy-living can sometimes be lost in a world of fad diets and celebrity fitness regimes.

Should access to nutritionists be similar to access to a doctor? When there is so much evidence to suggest that good nutrition is essential for health, perhaps solutions to pesky colds or even chronic diseases are much simpler than we think. Seeing a nutritionist could be another way to try and combat ailments, and the only you need medicine could be sat in your fruit bowl.

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