Food as medicine: a debated concept

The fact that diet can impact an individual’s health is well recognized by healthcare professionals around the world. People who have access to adequate nutrition are more likely to have a strong immune system, a safer pregnancy and birth, a lower risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and live longer.

The reasons for this are many, complex and not yet well understood. Some research has shown that a diet high in added sugar, saturated and trans fat, and excess sodium can induce it chronic inflammation – an underlying risk factor for the development of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, poor bowel health and other chronic diseases.

Likewise, the American Heart Association Recently formulated diet and lifestyle recommendations that included a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, low-fat dairy products, and plant-based or lean animal proteins to support cardiovascular health.

Experts believe this diet supports good health through its potential to reduce harmful risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including inflammation, high cholesterolhigh and poor blood pressure sleep.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also links nutritional status to immune health.

Additionally, research also shows that carotenoids – antioxidants naturally found in some vegetables and fruits – in the diet can improve the blood metabolites of people with liver disease.

Decades of scientific breakthroughs support the pivotal role of diet health managementthing not to be underestimated.

According to 2020-2025 Dietary guidelines for AmericansThe centerpiece of a healthy diet is based on high intake of a variety of nutrient-rich foods and drinks, including:

  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • low-fat and low-fat dairy products
  • lean proteins
  • healthy fats and oils.

Intake of sugar, salt, saturated fat, and alcohol should be limited for good health.

Some diets which can bring health benefits include the Mediterranean dietdietary approaches to stop hypertension (HYPHEN) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) MyPlate approach.

Food as medicine”Is a practice based on the awareness that food and diet play an important role in the prevention and management of diseases.

There is no single definition of the concept of “food as medicine”, but it generally refers to the priority of food and diet in an individual’s health plan, with the aim of preventing, reducing symptoms or reversing a disease state.

It focuses on increasing the consumption of a variety of whole and minimally processed plant foods and limited intake of highly processed foods rich in added sugar, oil and salt.

Foods that proponents claim have medicinal properties, often due to allegedly elevated levels of a particular micronutrient or biomolecule, sometimes referred to as functional foods – are of particular interest to people who consider food to be medicine.

These include a variety of herbs and spices, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.

The “food as medicine” approach to health management challenges the construct of conventional medicine, which relies primarily on medical advances in managing health and disease with drugs.

It is worth noting that conventional Western medicine prescribes dietary and lifestyle changes as a first-line treatment for some conditions, particularly polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

However, the focus is on the balance of macronutrients in the diet, and there is still little clarity as to what it should look like in humans, as outlined in an article published in Nature.

Here are some benefits of a “food as medicine” healthcare approach.

Disease management

Medical Nutritional Therapy it is part of the evidence-based health practice that uses diet and food to support the treatment of disease and is a clear demonstration of the role that diet and food play in the management of chronic disease.

For example, an increase in dietary fiber supports lower blood sugar levels in people with pre-diabetes or diabetes, reducing the occurrence of nerve and blood vessel damage associated with high blood sugar.

Improvements in diet quality can also reduce disease symptoms and improve quality of life.

A study suggests that a modified Mediterranean diet can reduce pain, fatigue and discomfort in people with lipoedema, a condition in which there is an abnormal accumulation of fat in the lower limbs.

Likewise, observational studies have identified that a healthful diet while treating breast cancer can to reduce negative symptoms caused by cancer treatment, including nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite.


The prevalence of chronic disease has increased worldwide, along with associated health care costs.

In 2010, an estimate 86% – over $ 400 billion – of health care costs in the United States alone were due to the treatment of patients with at least one chronic disease. These costs are shared between public resources and patients’ out-of-pocket expenses.

The use of “food as medicine” could conceivably reduce healthcare costs by potentially reducing disease severity through better laboratory work, fewer drugs and fewer hospitalizations.

However, the problems and policies surrounding food and apartheid access healthy foods among low-income communities in the United States that support improved health and reduced health care costs need to be continually addressed.

“Food as medicine”, however, is not a flawless approach. Here are some of its limitations.

It is not a cure-all

“Food as Medicine” is not a stand-alone remedy for all health conditions.

exposure to environmental toxins,

Therefore, while “food as medicine” can support disease management by improving symptoms and slowing disease progression in some diseases, it should not be used as a standalone treatment, rather in combination with adequate medical therapy.

Fueled by misinformation

Social media it can be an effective source of health promotion among health care professionals and organizations.

However, it can also be a source of misinformation and sharing of unverifiable information, especially regarding “food as medicine” or alternative medicinal therapies.

s described in Food is not medicine by nutritionist Dr. Joshua Wolrich, the defamation of individual foods can lead to unhealthy eating behaviors.

Drug-nutrient interactions

It is also important to consider how foods interact with medications. This is referred to as drug-nutrient interaction, which can increase or stop the effect of a drug in the body.

A common example is grapefruit juice, which doctors often advise should be avoided while taking certain medications, although some research shows it could improve the effect of cholesterol-lowering statins.

Drug-nutrient interactions must be considered for the perfect relationship between “food as medicine” and appropriate medical interventions in the best interest of patient care.

“Food as medicine” may be an emerging concept in the Western world, but many cultures around the world have long recognized the role of diet in health.

Various healthy diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, lean protein, and low-fat dairy products could reduce the risk associated with developing chronic disease, including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

However, “food as medicine” is not a cure for everyone and should be used in conjunction with appropriate medical treatment.

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