Diet

Can Food Serve As Medicine? Cons and Benefits

Although the idea of using food as medicine is still relatively new to the Western world, it has long been the basis for good health in many different cultures. In contrast to conventional medicine, the significance of nutrition and food in illness prevention and management has been contested. An explanation of the advantages and drawbacks of using food as medication in healthcare is provided in this Honest Nutrition segment.

The ability of nutrition to affect someone’s health is a truth that healthcare professionals throughout the world are well aware of. A person’s immune system is more likely to be robust, pregnancy and delivery are safer, they are less likely to develop diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and they live longer.

The causes of this are numerous, complicated, and yet little understood. According to some studies, eating a diet high in added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and salt may cause chronic inflammation, which is a risk factor for the onset of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, poor gut health, and other chronic illnesses.

Similarly, the American Heart Association recently issued dietary and lifestyle recommendations that supported cardiovascular health by emphasizing a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy, and plant-based or lean animal protein.

Inflammation, raised cholesterol, high blood pressure, and poor sleep are among the unhealthy risk factors for cardiovascular disease that experts believe this diet can improve. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also connects immunological health to dietary conditions.

Additionally, studies demonstrate that including carotenoids in the diet might enhance the blood metabolites of those with liver disease. Carotenoids are antioxidants that are naturally present in several vegetables and fruits.

It is important to recognize the crucial role that nutrition plays in managing one’s health, which has been supported by decades of scientific research.

The foundation of a healthy diet, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is built on high intakes of a range of nutrient-dense foods and drinks, such as:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Low-fat and fat-free dairy
  • Healthy protein
  • Wholesome oils and fats.
For optimal health, intake of added sugar, salt, saturated fats, and alcohol should be restricted. Dietary methods to stop hypertension (DASH), the Mediterranean diet, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Healthy Eating MyPlate approach are several diets that may have health advantages.
 

Medicinal Use Of Food

The concept of using food as medicine is based on the understanding that nutrition and food play significant roles in illness management and prevention. Food and nutrition are prioritized in a person’s health plan to avoid, lessen symptoms of, or reverse a disease condition, albeit the term “food as medicine” has no singular definition. The emphasis is on consuming more whole, minimally processed plant-based meals and consuming fewer highly processed foods that are heavy in added sugar, oil, and salt.
 
People who view food as medicine are particularly interested in foods that proponents believe have therapeutic capabilities, frequently because they are said to contain high quantities of a certain micronutrient or biomolecule. These foods are occasionally appertained to as functional foods.
 
These consist of a selection of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and spices. The concept of traditional medicine, which largely depends on technical medical developments to control health and illness using pharmaceutical medications, is challenged by the “food as medicine” approach to health management.
 
It is important to note that some illnesses, most notably polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), are treated as a first line of defense by traditional, Western medicine. However, as described in research published in Nature, the emphasis is on the balance of macronutrients in the diet, and there is still some uncertainty over what it should look like in people.
 

Benefits

1. Disease Control

Medical nutrition therapy is an example of evidence-based health practice that uses diet and food to help cure illnesses, and it is a very obvious example of how diet and food may help manage chronic diseases.
 
For instance, increasing dietary fiber helps people with pre-diabetes or diabetes have lower blood sugar levels, which lowers the risk of nerve and blood vessel damage brought on by high blood sugar levels.
 
Increases in nutrition quality can also lessen the effects of illness and enhance the quality of life. According to one research, people with lipoedema, a disorder in which there is an abnormal buildup of fat in the lower limbs, may experience less pain, tiredness, and discomfort while following a modified Mediterranean diet. Observational studies have also shown that a healthy diet during breast cancer therapy may lessen side effects brought on by cancer treatment, such as nausea, vomiting, and appetite loss.
 

2. Cost-Effective

Globally, both the frequency of chronic illnesses and the expenses of treating them has grown. A rough estimate states that treating people with at least one chronic condition accounted for 86% of the $400 billion in healthcare expenses in the U.S. alone in 2010. The patients’ out-of-pocket charges and public resources split these costs.
 
By potentially decreasing illness severity through improved lab work, fewer drugs, and fewer hospitalizations, “food as medicine” might theoretically save healthcare expenditures. To enhance health and save healthcare expenses, it is necessary to continuously address the problems and regulations relating to food apartheid and low-income groups’ access to healthy foods.
 

Limitations

1. It Is Not a Panacea

The phrase “food as medicine” may not apply to all medical issues. Chronic illness development is still complicated and may result from factors other than nutrition, such as autoimmune disorders, genetic predisposition, and exposure to chemicals in the environment.
 
As a result, “food as medicine” should not be used as a stand-alone treatment, but rather in conjunction with the proper medical therapy. In some disorders, it may improve disease management by reducing symptoms and decreasing disease development.
 

2. Driven By False Information

The internet in terms of promoting health among organizations and health professionals, Trusted Source may be a useful resource. When it comes to “food as medicine” or alternative medical treatments, it may also be a source of disinformation and the dissemination of unverified information.
 
According to dietitian Dr. Joshua Wolrich’s book Food Isn’t Medicine, demonizing particular foods might encourage unhealthy eating habits.
 

3. Nutrient-Drug Interactions

It’s also critical to take drug interactions between meals into account. This is known as a drug-nutrient interaction, and it may improve or interfere with a drug’s impact on the body. A typical example is grapefruit juice, which doctors frequently recommend should be avoided when taking certain drugs, even though some study indicates it may increase the impact of cholesterol-lowering statins. For the seamless integration of “food as medicine” and appropriate medical treatments in the best interests of patient care, drug-nutrient interactions must be taken into account.
 

Conclusion

Though the idea of using food as medicine is still relatively new to the West, many other societies have long understood the connection between nutrition and health. Lean protein, low-fat dairy, and a variety of nutritious diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, as well as dairy products, may lower the threat of developing habitual ails including heart complaints and type 2 diabetes. However, using food as medicine should be done in combination with the right medical care because it is not a universal solution.

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