Culinary medicine

Poor diets mean poor health. Food is a medicine and hence we need doctors to be trained in it. But culinary medicine training is not yet a mainstream subject for doctors. What is the reason for it?

Doctors training and culinary medicine

We all know that healthy eating predisposes to good health and wards off many illnesses. Food as medicine is a great way to help the world and have overall good health of the people. Foods are a low-cost way to improve the health of the population. Pharmaceutical pills and supplements are costlier and are short term measures to circumvent the problems.

Doctors should advise people on healthier eating patterns. But unfortunately, there is no training provided to doctors in culinary medicine. Hence they are unable to make patients aware on it. They are unable to educate them on what to eat and what foods to avoid for the illness. They refer them to dietitians for it.

Culinary medicine
Culinary medicine for doctors (Source: Op-Med Doximity)

The American National Academy of Sciences and the accrediting organization for U.S. medical colleges had suggested that a minimum of 25 hours of training should be offered to doctors on cooking and foods. But this instruction is followed by less than a third of the medical schools in the USA. Also, it has remained as an elective and is not a mainstream subject.

Reasons for not having nutrition as mainstream subject

Dr. Craig Jensen, who is the faculty director of the Choosing Healthy, Eating Fresh course at Baylor feels that it is not essential for every medical student to know about cooking and diet. He says:

Designing a medical school curriculum is extraordinarily complex,”

According to him, there are other more important subjects and topics to teach.

Wesley McWhorter, a dietician and chef turned public health researcher at UT Health Houston attributes this lack of interest in the subject to money. There is no money coming from telling people ways to avoid sickness. Wesley says:

Nutrition is not really reimbursable,”

Culinary medicine
US pharma industry (Source: Pharmapproach)

Dr. Dexter Shurney, who is the chief health equity, diversity, and inclusion officer at Adventist Health in California says:

“I think the loser in this will be the some of the pharmaceutical companies. If we really get a foothold on lifestyle medicine, there’s just going to be less need for medications,”

Therefore, pharmaceutical firms pressurize governments to not do the needful.

Moreover, nutrition research is limited. If it happens, funding is from food industry. Hence it leads to conflicts of interests. Also Dexter adds about the difficulty of research:

We don’t eat just a single food,”

“We’re eating patterns of food, and so how do you control for all of that?”

What can be done?

Read here: White vinegar: uses, health benefits and caution!

Despite the anti-arguments, increasing number of medical students are opting for new nutrition programs. These courses are full and sold out.

Culinary medicine
USA insurance firms (Source: YouTube)

Moreover, insurance companies can be involved to push forward the food as medicine movement. These companies would be interested to seeing to it that people are healthy and hence their payouts reduce. Dexter feels that the shift should be from the current fee-for-service model to a fee-for-outcome approach. In this, the providers can earn more by preventing patients from getting sick.