Why doctors in training are taking ‘culinary medicine’ a lot more seriously

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Doctors aren’t the only ones wearing white coats.

But a doctor tries to show that the traditional white doctor’s clothes can do extra work in the kitchen.

As Americans strive to eat healthier, a Stanford University physician, Dr. Michelle Hauser, medical students early to learn how to eat better by teaching them how to cook with a medical school curriculum now in more than 100 countries, according to a press release.

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“Nutrition education represents a critical missed opportunity in medical education in the United States and in many countries around the world,” Hauser, who is board-certified in internal medicine and lifestyle medicine, told Fox News Digital.

There is a “need to gain knowledge and skills to work effectively with patients to help change their dietary habits,” said Dr. Michelle Hauser.
(iStock)

“The field of CM [culinary medicine] arose to fill a gap between nutrition as it is taught (or not) in most health worker training programs,” she added.

She said that “knowledge and skills must be gained to work effectively with patients to change their dietary habits to achieve their health goals and improve longevity, well-being and performance.”

Hauser, who trained at the famed Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, is director of obesity medicine for the Medical Weight Loss Program at the Stanford Lifestyle and Weight Management Center.

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The curriculum is “not intended to replace traditional health care, but rather to be one of the tools for health care professionals to draw from,” Hauser noted in a recent press release.

“In the US, the recommendation is that 0.6% of total medical school hours should be focused on nutrition-related topics — and most schools are still falling short,” she told Fox News Digital.

“I’ve found that, as a doctor, simply telling patients to eat healthier as a way to treat or prevent disease isn’t super effective.”

But only 25% of medical schools have a special nutrition course.

“This is despite diet being the major risk factor for morbidity and mortality in the US,” she said. It is “associated with 11 million deaths worldwide every year.”

An assortment of fresh healthy organic fruits and vegetables on the table. "It's easy to get people to change their eating habits when you talk about the deliciousness of something," said Dr.  Michelle Hausner

An assortment of fresh healthy organic fruits and vegetables on the table. “It’s easy to get people to change their eating habits when you’re talking about the deliciousness of something,” said Dr. Michelle Hausner
(iStock)

Hauser also noted that most nutrition classes out there focus on things that are unlikely to change eating behaviors.

“As a physician, I’ve found that telling patients to eat healthier as a way to treat or prevent disease isn’t super effective,” Hauser said in a press release.

“But it’s easy to get people to change their eating habits when you talk about the deliciousness of something — maybe you’re highlighting a new recipe or restaurant and how good it tastes.”

If the food is “awful, we’re not going to sign up for another healthy cooking class,” students told Dr. hauser.

She has now taught the course at Stanford for the past five years after being inspired to embark on this journey during her college days.

“When I was an undergrad and doing my pre-med studies, I had already trained as a chef and had to work full-time to help myself through school,” she said in a press release.

“I ended up running a cooking school.”

A young woman is preparing a healthy meal at home.  Students started Dr.  Hauser how they could eat differently to improve their health.

A young woman is preparing a healthy meal at home. Students started Dr. Hauser how they could eat differently to improve their health.
(iStock)

When people in the class started asking her about how they could eat differently to improve their health — such as lowering their cholesterol or helping their significant other better control the person’s diabetes — she “started to learn more about nutrition and into my cooking classes.”

So she started a healthy cooking class.

Culinary medicine, she said, “treats the aspect of nutrition education with more relevance to the average person who makes decisions about what to eat on a daily basis,” she told Fox News Digital.

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Initially, some people were skeptical.

So she showed her students that she was putting into practice what she was learning — eating the recipes she learned at home so that “they knew I wouldn’t eat anything if it wasn’t right.”

“If it’s terrible, we’re not going to sign up for another healthy cooking class,” she told her students.

The doctor would ask others, “Why don’t we talk to people with heart disease about what they eat?”

But as word of mouth spread, the class soon had a waiting list. She then took these experiences to medical school.

However, during her medical training, she noticed that doctors did not consider nutrition in their conversations with patients who would really benefit from knowing how healthy eating habits could improve their medical condition.

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“I would ask my attendees [doctors who supervise medical students]”Why don’t we talk to people with heart disease about what they eat?” or ‘Why don’t we talk to people with diabetes about their diet, just about prescriptions?'” she said in a press release.

She noted that many health care professionals don’t have the time to have these meaningful conversations about dietary habits.

Or they just resign themselves to the fact that “nobody changes their diet anyway and it’s better to just focus on drugs.”

A doctor pointed out that many health care professionals don't have the time to have meaningful conversations with patients about dietary habits.  Instead, they tend to "just focus" on drugs.

A doctor pointed out that many health care professionals don’t have the time to have meaningful conversations with patients about dietary habits. Instead, they tend to “just focus” on drugs.
(iStock, file)

“It made me think, ‘Well, maybe we’re just approaching the topic of healthy eating with patients the wrong way,’ Hauser said.

“Most people know that vegetables are good for them,” she told Fox News Digital.

But only one in 10 people eat the recommended number of servings each day, she said.

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“Common barriers that stand in the way are cost, lack of knowledge and skills to select and prepare healthy ingredients, time and socialization that food can be healthy or delicious, but not both,” Hauser told Fox News Digital.

Culinary medicine is an effective method of combating these important barriers to dietary change by teaching people that healthy food can be tasty, quick and inexpensive if a person knows how to cook and plan meals, she noted.

"The potential to learn how to cook, exercise, eat and think healthier can and will change behavior, clinical outcomes and healthcare costs for everyone," a doctor told Fox News Digital.

“The potential to learn to cook, exercise, eat and think healthier can and will change behavior, clinical outcomes and healthcare costs for everyone,” a doctor told Fox News Digital.
(iStock)

She wanted to change the status quo.

So she teamed up with a medical school faculty member to kick off the first culinary medicine conference — “which continues to this day.”

It’s called Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Living.

“It’s one thing to hear, ‘You need to change your diet and you need to exercise more’ — a strategy that we now recognize isn’t very effective,” says Dr. David Miles Eisenberg, director of culinary nutrition and adjunct associate professor of nutrition at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

He is also a co-founder of the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference.

The conference is multidisciplinary in nature and includes two specialties wearing white coats – chefs and health professionals to learn how cooking can improve eating habits.

And in February, the course, which is co-sponsored by the Harvard TH Chan School and the CIA — as in, the Culinary Institute of America — will take place in Napa, California.

It is quite another “to be brought into a ‘learning kitchen’, to be taken by the hand and given an education.”

“It’s quite another to be taken to a ‘Teaching Kitchen’, held by the hand and trained,” he told Fox News Digital.

Those who attend the conference will learn “which foods to eat more, less and why.”

He notes that the conference also teaches “how to cook with easily accessible, whole food ingredients and create healthy yet delicious, affordable, easy-to-make (and sustainable) recipes and meals.”

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It also emphasizes the importance of regular exercise, but reminds “how important it is to eat and live consciously” and provides helpful tips for changing habits that are counterproductive.

He told Fox News Digital about another upcoming conference in October. It will show how culinary medicine is being integrated in many locations in the US and worldwide today.

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It’s called the Teaching Kitchen Research Conference (tkresearchconference.org) and is sponsored by Harvard and the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative. It is co-funded by the National Institutes of Health.

“The potential to learn how to cook, exercise, eat and think healthier can and will change behavior, clinical outcomes and healthcare costs for everyone,” Eisenberg said.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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