Tag Archives: nutrition

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.

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Obesity: The Public Health Epidemic Sweeping America

The prevalence of obesity in the United States has skyrocketed in the past few decades, leading to jarring statistics that indicate a rapidly increasing global public health epidemic. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey states that more than 2 in 3 adults are considered overweight or obese; yet perhaps more disconcerting is the fact that approximately one-third of children and adolescents between the ages of 6 and 19 qualify as overweight or obese.

While the causes of obesity vary, factors include genetics, nutrition habits, lifestyle habits, geographic location, and socioeconomic status. The epigenetics of obesity demonstrate that genetic makeup plays an innate role, but can be mitigated and lessened by one’s activity choices and environment. As obesity is one of the primary risk factors for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and a host of other critically severe health problems, there is a pressing need for increased awareness and action steps surrounding the epidemic.

A recent study based at and conducted by UT Southwestern Medical Center reveals a strong genetic-environmental interaction: obesity significantly exacerbates the effects of gene variants that increase the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) by various metabolic pathways. If untreated and unmonitored, NAFLD can ultimately lead to cirrhosis—chronic liver disease—and liver cancer. Scientists found that the PNPLA3 gene variant spurred the strongest genetic-environmental interaction: “the first genetic cause of NAFLD ever identified.” One of the lead researchers in the study explains that people with lower BMI indexes are unlikely to have excess fat in the liver, despite having the PNPLA3 risk alleles. A longitudinal study further revealed that the risk of having cirrhosis among those with the risk allele increased 5.8 times, compared to those who were obese but lacked the risk allele.

The findings demonstrate an interaction between obesity and genetics, confirming the importance of both genetic screenings and early interventions. Nevertheless, DNA is not the sole culprit; while genetics inevitably account for some of a person’s obesity risk, genes can be countered and curbed by the implementation of healthy lifestyle interventions. Increasing data and studies indicate that sleep hygiene is a necessary element in terms of obesity prevention, coupled with consistent physical activity and exercise.

Thus, although there is no single approach to prevent or treat overweight and obesity, the importance of diet and exercise cannot be understated—particularly with younger children and adolescent, as childhood obesity almost inevitably leads to adulthood obesity. While some studies suggest that the epidemic will worsen and hit new highs, others advocate for the imminent urgency of different treatment approaches, including collaboration with the food and restaurant industries regarding calories and portion sizes. Regardless of societal and external factors, the epigenetics of obesity can be influenced by our behavior and actions: namely, positive and healthy lifestyle interventions.

To learn more about personalized approaches & strategies to address weight management and obesity, attend our pre-conference Obesity Management Workshop in Las Vegas on December 13th, 2017. 

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International Blog Spotlight: Greece

BRAIN FITNESS DIET

Dr. Maria Psoma, medical Biopathologist

Can we reverse “brain aging” with nutrition and healthy lifestyle?

I was reading some studies from UCLA, which motivated me to further explore the question. It is a clinically proven fact that as we age, we experience cognitive decline: for some, the deterioration can continue until the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. When people reach the age of 85, statistics indicate that there is a 45% chance of this.

I was primarily reading research that focused on supplements, including high quality omega 3 fatty acids , Q10, B12, melatonin, and D3: combined with changes in nutrition and exercise.

Results were impressive; no medicine or pharmaceutical drug demonstrated the same success as nutrition and lifestyle changes. Clinical results showed improvement even among people in their 80s.

Another research conducted at Rush University, which included 900 participants between the ages of 58-98, followed the subjects for 4.5 years.

Three different nutrition interventions were implemented: the Mediterranean diet, DASH diet, and a combination called ”Brain Diet”.

The researchers investigated the influence of the diets in terms of prevention for Alzheimer’s, in addition to an evaluation of factors including age, sex, education, cardiological factors, and levels of physical activity.

The best results were from the ‘brain diet,’ with prevention percentages as high as 52%. The Mediterranean and DASH Diet had results between 35-405.

The basic ingredients of a healthy ‘brain diet:’

  1. Green leafy vegetables
  2. Raw nuts
  3. Berries (polyphenols)
  4. Beans
  5. Unprocessed cereals
  6. Fish
  7. Free range poultry
  8. Olive oil
  9. Red wine (resveratrol)

Foods that harm brain function:

  1. Sugar
  2. Red meat
  3. Saturated fat
  4. Fried foods

General Instructions of healthy lifestyle and nutrition practices:

—Limit simple carbohydrates (white flour, pasta) and any processed foods
—Consume unlimited fresh, colorful vegetables that are rich in antioxidants, in addition to fruits and fish
—Find time for yourself at least twice a day (yoga & breathing exercises can be beneficial)
—Sleep 7-8 hours per night, or at least 5 hours of quality, non-interrupted sleep
—Take the proper supplements after medical history & specific laboratory exams
—Care for your oral hygiene
—Engage in regular physical activity for at least 30 minutes, 3-4 times per week

Dr. Maria Psoma is a biopathologist with a PhD from the University of Athens. She is a Fellow and Board Certified in Anti-Aging Medicine, and a member of both the American Obesity Society & the International Society of Nutrigenomics.

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Email: hello@psoma.gr

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