The Necessity of Nutrition

With over two-thirds of Americans considered to be overweight or obese, the global obesity epidemic shows no signs of slowing. As diabetes and cardiovascular disease are on the rise, in addition to spikes in other lifestyle-related disorders, it becomes increasingly critical to maintain education surrounding healthy living habits. Yet while physicians are generally considered to be reliable sources regarding nutrition, more than 50% of graduating medical students continue to rate their knowledge as ‘inadequate,’ and only one in eight patients receives counseling from their doctors on dietary health benefits.

A study found that the majority of cardiologists lack current, up-to-date education surrounding nutrition and diet. A report published by the American Journal of Medicine, authored by a dozen healthcare professionals in the United States and Spain, titled “A Deficiency of Nutrition Education and Practice in Cardiology” details that less than a third of cardiologists describe their nutrition knowledge as “mostly up to date” or better. Indeed, while the leading cause of premature death and disability in the United States is heart disease, most cardiologists report inadequate training in nutrition. “Using nutrition as medicine is probably one of the most cost effective ways to treat disease but is incredibly underutilized by healthcare providers,” explained Andrew Freeman, M.D., a cardiologist at National Jewish Health in Denver, and one of the study’s co-authors. “If we could empower healthcare providers with information on how to implement this in daily practice, we could transform healthcare rapidly, prevent healthcare cost explosions, and reduce morbidity and mortality.”

Ninety percent of cardiologists surveyed reported receiving no or minimal nutrition education during cardiovascular fellowship training; 59 percent reported no nutrition education during international medicine training; 31 percent reported no nutrition education throughout medical school. Almost two-thirds of all surveyed cardiologists reported spending three minutes or less per visit discussing nutrition with their patients.

Moreover, another study designed to quantify the required number of hours of nutrition education at U.S. medical schools, in addition to an investigation regarding the types of courses offered, reaffirmed the supposition that medical students receive an inadequate amount of nutrition education. Only 27% of surveyed schools required a course dedicated to nutrition; on average, U.S. medical schools only offer 19.6 hours of nutrition education—across four years of medical school. Other informal polls and anecdotes uphold the studies’ findings, as students assert that nutrition education throughout medical school is, at best, minimal.

Throughout the past several decades, there has been a push towards improving the medical nutrition education that students receive. With suboptimal knowledge about dietary habits, future physicians are selling both themselves and their patients very short. It is imperative to equip health practitioners with the necessary tools and information that they can utilize in their practices, ultimately addressing the root causes of real, pervasive problems. Medical schools have the burden of responsibility to arm their graduates with the tools to tackle the biggest, most acute global health challenges: including obesity and nutrition problems.

Wearables: Potential to Predict Disease

A host of studies and research confirms the burgeoning theory that wearable health technology, an innovation that has progressively gained traction in medical and consumer arenas, can positively affect healthcare and patients’ wellness. Moreover, researchers have found that data from smartwatches have the capabilities to both detect—and even predict—the onset of disease. 

Because a large segment of the population utilizes smartwatches, an enormous amount of data and metrics portray a more comprehensive overview of health, as opposed to a solitary visit to the doctor. Researchers from Stanford University conducted a study during which they gave participants smartwatches, and subsequently analyzed almost a year of the data. Measurements included skin temperature, heart rate, and data collected from sleep.

When analyzing the data, the team found that ‘out-of-the-ordinary measurements’—specifically heart rate—had strong correlations with health issues like the common cold. Additionally, more detailed data was collected from several participants, for two years. Researchers evaluated this data, and chose the four dates during which measurements were out of the ordinary: the heart rate and skin temperature were specifically elevated. During a period when the measurements were abnormal, the participant had developed Lyme disease; during the other periods, he had a fever, or the common old.

These measurements have strong correlations with inflammation, suggesting that the data was able to pinpoint and pick up on signs of inflammation. Other participants who were ill during the period they used smartwatches demonstrated measurements of elevated heart rate and skin temperatures. Moreover, in a separate experiment, the team found that insulin resistance had a connection to body mass index and heart rate—the latter of which was measured by a smartwatch.

The simplicity behind wearing a fitness wristband, and any wearable health technology, can more easily help surgeons detect which patients are at risk for complications. Evidence-based studies have demonstrated that the integration of wireless technology strongly correlates with ‘postoperative quality-of-life data,’ and reinforces research that surgeons should consistently track their patients’ results and quality of life.

These findings reaffirm the belief that surgeons have the capability to routinely measure patient-centered results–including anxiety, postoperative pain, and the ease with which patients can perform daily tasks and activities. While surgeons do not regularly practice this type of aftercare, and follow up on patients’ recovery, this monitoring system establishes an exciting and inventive kind of versatility, portability, and ultimate healthcare awareness that should be incorporated and put into practice.

The idea that smartwatches can predict and detect disease could become a widespread phenomenon, which would ultimately become an accessible and convenient tool for diagnosis. Wearables may have the potential to eliminate doctor visits, particularly for people who have geographical or monetary difficulties.

The Link Between Parkinson’s & Gut Bacteria

Recent findings have confirmed a long assumed, yet never officially proven, hypothesis regarding a functional link between the gut’s bacteria and the onset of Parkinson’s disease. While previous research has demonstrated strong correlations between the gut and the disease, no research has shown the exact relationship.

One of the world’s most prevalent neurodegenerative disorders, Parkinson’s affects approximately 1 million people in the United States. A progressive and chronic movement disorder, Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and ultimate death of the brain’s vital nerve cells: neurons. As the neurons that typically produce normal levels of dopamine—the chemical that communicates with the segment of the brain that controls coordination and movement—regularly decrease and dopamine levels lessen, a person becomes unable to control movement. Worsening symptoms include the gradual deterioration of motor symptoms: body tremors, bradykinesia/slowness of movement, rigidity, and severe postural instability.

The studies suggest a new, unprecedented way of treating the disease and its symptoms: targeting the gut, rather than the brain, and developing next-generation probiotics: a more sophisticated version than those readily available for purchase and consumption today.

Through conducting trials during which mice were fed certain short-chain fatty acids that are commonly produced by bacteria in the gut, in addition to actual samples of gut bacteria from human Parkinson’s patients and healthy human controls, the team found that the mice either exhibited symptoms, or did not produce symptoms, respectively. The team’s researchers expressed their hope in the possibility of the prescription of drugs that contain bacteria to prevent Parkinson’s, or treat the disease symptoms. Moreover, the studies imply that Parkinson’s is less related to hereditary genetics than environmental factors—including the onset of age.

At A4M, our overarching goal is to treat—and ultimately prevent—the onset of diseases associated with aging. Attend our upcoming events and learn about the advancement of technology and biomedical engineering, coupled with the most recent research & inquiries into methods that optimize the human aging process.
 
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