The fact that diet can impact an individual’s health is well acknowledged by healthcare providers worldwide. People who have access to adequate nutrition are more likely to have strong immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and they live longer.
The reasons for this are myriad, complex, and not yet well understood. Some research has shown that a diet rich in added sugars, saturated and trans fats and excess sodium may induce
Experts think that this diet supports good health through its potential to reduce harmful risk factors of cardiovascular disease, including inflammation, elevated
Furthermore, research also shows that carotenoids – antioxidants naturally found in some vegetables and fruits – in the diet can improve the blood metabolites of people with
Decades of scientific findings support the integral role of diet in
According to the 2020-2025
- whole grains
- low and non-fat dairy
- lean protein
- healthy fats and oils.
Added sugar, salt, saturated fats, and alcohol intake should be limited for good health.
There is no single definition of the “food as medicine” concept, but it generally refers to prioritizing food and diet in an individual’s health plan, with the goal of either preventing, reducing symptoms of, or reversing a disease state.
It is focused on the increased consumption of a variety of whole, minimally-processed plant-based foods, and limited intakes of highly processed foods rich in added sugar, oil, and salt.
Foods that proponents claim have medicinal properties, often due to supposed high levels of a particular micronutrient or biomolecule – sometimes referred to as
These include a variety of herbs and spices, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.
The “food as medicine” approach to health management challenges the construct of conventional medicine, which relies primarily on technological medical advancements to manage health and disease with pharmaceutical drugs.
It is worth noting that conventional, Western medicine does prescribe dietary and lifestyle changes as a first-line treatment for some conditions, notably polycystic ovary syndrome (
However, the focus is on the balance of macronutrients in the diet, and there is as little clarity as to what should look like in humans, as outlined in a paper published in
Here are some benefits of a “food as medicine” healthcare approach.
For instance, an increase in dietary fiber
Improvements in diet quality can also reduce disease symptoms and improve quality of life.
Likewise, observational studies have identified that a healthyful diet during breast cancer treatment may
The prevalence of chronic diseases has increased worldwide, along with associated healthcare costs.
In 2010, an estimated
Using “food as medicine” could conceivably reduce healthcare costs by potentially reducing disease severity through better labwork, fewer medications, and fewer hospitalizations.
However, the issues and policies surrounding food apartheid and
“Food as medicine,” however, is not an approach without flaws. Here are some of its limitations.
It is not a cure-all
Food as medicine is not a stand-alone remedy for all health conditions.
Thus, while “food as medicine” may support disease management by improving symptoms and slowing disease progression in some diseases, it must not be used as a stand-alone treatment, rather in conjunction with appropriate medical therapy.
Fueled by misinformation
However, it can also be a source of misinformation and sharing of unverifiable information, especially where “food as medicine” or alternative medicinal therapies are concerned.
s outlined in Food Isn’t Medicine by nutritionist Dr. Joshua Wolrich, the vilification of individual foods can lead to unhealthy eating behaviors.
It is also important to consider how foods interact with medications. This is referred to as
A common example is grapefruit juice, which doctors often advise should be
Drug-nutrient interactions must be considered for the seamless relationship of “food as medicine” and appropriate medical interventions in the best interest of patient care.
“Food as medicine” may be an emerging concept in the Western world, but many cultures around the globe have long recognized the role of diet in health.
Various healthy diets high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean protein, and low-fat dairy could reduce the risk associated with the development of chronic diseases, including heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
However, “food as medicine” is not a cure for all and should be used in conjunction with appropriate medical treatment.