Alternative Medicine

Food as Medicine

The difference between eating well and staying healthy can be down to diet alone. We know just from looking at all the data that an unhealthy diet is a leading risk factor for illness, death and a low quality of life. We might be an aging population, but the quality of life needs to be taken into account. 

If we were to use “food as medicine” strategy, healthy eating can not only help manage an existing condition but can prevent disease happening in the first place. 

 “Food as medicine” is more than just an age-old adage. Data, patient feedback and scientific research proves that food can literally replace some medication, delivering measurable and tangible benefits to healthy eaters without any side effects. Yet many corporate wellness programs focus on lifestyle choices such as exercise and smoking cessation, downplaying diet, nutrition and nutritional therapy. 

A program without an emphasis on food as medicine strategy can miss a key factor when looking at controlling chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and mental illness. These illnesses are extremely costly for employees and employers alike.  

There is clear and overwhelming scientific evidence to show that focusing on nutrition can help and treat chronic disease

Heart Disease

Heart and circulatory diseases cause more than a quarter (27 per cent) of all deaths in the UK according to the BHF 

Food and diet are one of the key contributors to high cholesterol which causes heart disease. Of course, there are statins and other medications you can take to mitigate the symptoms but using food as medicine strategy can prevent and even reverse heart disease. 

In 2014, a study was conducted consisting of 198 patients with significant CAD.[9] Of these patients, 119 had undergone a prior coronary intervention with stents or bypass surgery, and 44 had a previous heart attack. There were multiple comorbidities including hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. During four years of follow up, 99.4% of the participants who adhered to WFPBN (Whole Foods Plant Based Nutrition) avoided any major cardiac event including heart attack, stroke, and death, and angina improved or resolved in 93%. 

Diabetes

The new figures show that there are 3.8 million people living with a diabetes diagnosis n the UK, and 90% of those with Type 2 

There are almost 1 million more people living with Type 2 diabetes, who don’t know they have it because they haven’t been diagnosed, bringing the total number up to 4.7 million. By 2030 it is predicted this number will rise to 5.5 million. (Diabetes.org.uk) 

Diabetes is characterised by too much glucose (sugar) in their blood. But we all need some glucose. It’s what gives us energy. We get glucose when our bodies break down the carbohydrates that we eat or drink and then that glucose is released into our blood. We also need the hormone insulin which is made by the pancreas, and it’s insulin that allows the glucose in our blood to enter our cells and fuel our bodies. 

If you don’t have diabetes, your pancreas senses when glucose has entered your bloodstream and releases the right amount of insulin, so the glucose can get into your cells. But if you have diabetes, this system doesn’t work correctly. 

People living with diabetes can be subjected to a lower quality of life with potential surgical interventions, checkups and daily injections. Diet alone has shown to be able to manage and bring type 2 diabetes into remission 

A number of research studies have shown that low carb is a particularly effective method of controlling type 2 diabetes without the need for medication. 

One of the studies, which was done over 8 years at a University in Naples compared a low carb Mediterranean diet to a low-fat diet. The results showed that remission rates were much stronger within the group following low carb. And, although remission were stronger in the low carb group, remission is still possible with other diets, in this case low fat. 

What was interesting about the study, is that medication was able to manage the disease but not put it into remission, whereas, the food as medicine approach delivered a lot more cases of putting participants into remission,  

Studies like this are indicative of the need in looking to use food as medicine approach as the primary strategy of looking to manage the condition and put it into remission. 

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure can contribute to an increased risk in heart attacks, heart failure and arrhythmia, 

It can also affect the brain and result in strokes and impaired cognitive ability. 

High blood pressure increases the risk for heart attacks, irregular heart rhythms, heart enlargement, heart failure and sudden cardiac death. It also damages the brain and can result in strokes, dementia or mild cognitive impairment. 

To combat high blood pressure, diet can be used as the primary tool with a number of approaches available as a strategy. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet which significantly reduced blood pressure among hypertension patients. The DASH diet which emphasizes a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and reduced saturated and total fat, has been tested in multiple randomized controlled trials in specific populations including obese hypertensives and individuals with type 2 diabetes both alone and in combination with other lifestyle interventions with consistent results. 

The DASH approach is intended to manage hypertension without the use of medication or supplements includes foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure such as magnesium and calcium and potassium. It has been observed that the use of this food as medicine approach, results can be seen in as little as 2 weeks with many patients being weaned off their medication entirely just through diet. 


Mediterranean Diet 

The Mediterranean dietary pattern has many similarities with the DASH dietary pattern but is generally higher in fat, primarily monounsaturated fat from olive oil, nuts, and seeds (commonly close to 40 % of daily energy). The Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea (PREDIMED) Study examined the effects of a Mediterranean dietary pattern with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts as compared to a low-fat dietary pattern on cardiovascular disease and blood pressure [14] among 772 men and women aged 55–80 years. Compared with the low-fat diet, the mean net changes in the Mediterranean diet with olive oil group showed decreases in systolic blood pressure in line with averages and thus reducing the risk of diseases relating to high blood pressure. 

How Corporate Wellness Programs Can Influence Diet

The data is unequivocal, and that diet really does matter with any form of chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. A corporate wellness programme should include a nutrition component that is accessible and that can be incorporated into employee’s daily lives. 
In today's modern world we are quick to supplement with the onset of any illness, but what is on the end of our fork should be our number one priority and with the righ guidance through nutrition and nutritional therapy, employees can use a food as a medicine strategy to help avoid so many of the chronic conditions that plague our workforce. 
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