Report from American Society of Nutrition Conference
I attended the American Society of Nutrition Conference in Boston in late July. Scientists and healthcare professionals from all over the world came together to exchange information about the future of food and nutrition science in healthcare.
The session Food as Medicine particularly resonated with me and reaffirmed the work we are doing to incorporate dietary guidance as a complement to traditional treatment plans. Several speakers gave their views and visions for the future of food in the medical and healthcare domain.
Representative Jim McGovern from Massachusetts and co-chair of the Hunger Caucus, spoke about his hunger policy for the United States. He is passionate about decreasing hunger for American families. He says that hunger is a political issue and that it is hidden in plain sight. Poor diets cost the country in medical costs, decreased productivity, and death. He suggested that we need to rethink the education of medical students to provide better nutrition training, and we need to teach people about their food and the best ways to cook it to sustain a healthy life. His goal is to use his position in the government to strengthen nutrition policies that will help Americans maximize their health.
Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist from Tufts University, described how 20th century nutrition policies focused on getting calories and vitamins to people through fortification and industrial technology. For the most part, the policy was successful.1 For example, cereal fortification and consumption was prioritized. Because this was the focus, we now have lots of fortified processed foods that provide high calorie meals with added vitamins and minerals. Moving forward, he says that we need to get back to whole foods that provide nutrient dense meals without the calorie density and the processing.
Healthcare systems can take the lead in changing the focus with medically tailored meals, medically tailored groceries, produce prescriptions, and medical nutrition education. Dr. Mozaffarian suggests that we need to build layers of programs that help address patients and their needs, from prevention to treatment, in a spectrum of health as illustrated in the Food is Medicine pyramid.2
1. 5. CDC, M. (1999). Achievements in public health, 1900-1999: safer and healthier foods. October, 15, 48.
2. Mozaffarian, D., et al. (2022). A Food is Medicine approach to achieve nutrition security and improve health. Nature medicine, 28(11), 2238–2240.