This Months’s Food as Medicine Roundup: August 23, 2019

Sahra Pak August 23, 2019
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Sahra Pak
As a registered dietitian, Sahra brings her extensive experience in health care and public health to Lighter to improve the health of the population through effective communication, sustainable behavior modification approaches and upstream intervention strategies. Through her work with Los Angeles and Solano County Departments of Public Health, Kaiser Permanente, and partnering with health advocacy organizations such as CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest), Sahra has helped create sustainable food systems, adapted public policy, implemented environmental change, and health education programs.


Thank you for checking out this week’s edition of our Food as Medicine News Roundup! Once a month, I’ll share a collection of important and trending articles in the Food as Medicine space.


Welcome to this week’s edition of our Food as Medicine News Roundup (#FoodIsMedicine)! Nutrition, diet, and food as medicine spaces are always brimming with new and exciting discoveries.  

This week, learn just how much of our store-bought food supply is ultra-processed (you won’t believe how high it is!); find out how diet may be the key to lowering the risk of C. diff.; and take a positive and inspiring trip to California and Arizona where city and county governments are incorporating food as medicine to keep their residents healthy and happy. 

Let’s get going! 


Made in America: 86% of store-bought foods may be ultra-processed 

Americans eat a lot of food and beverages purchased from stores. This includes both packaged and unpackaged foods such as bread, salad dressing, sweets, snack foods, and sugary drinks. Today, about 80% of our (Americans’) total calorie consumption can be traced back to these store-bought foods and beverages. Using the NOVA food classification system to assess the level of processing of these foods, researchers found that 86% of the food products sold by the top 25 manufacturers were categorized as ultra-processed. 


“Food and beverage products continuously evolve, and reports like these highlight opportunities to make critical changes within specific manufacturers or product categories to reduce saturated fat, salt and sugars.”

— Abigail Baldridge, study author


Ultra-processed foods are made mostly from oils, fats, sugar, salt, highly processed starch, as well as hydrogenated fats that are synthesized in laboratories. Sugary drinks also play a role in weight gain and type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. It’s time for our food policy and manufacturers to get up to speed on the food is medicine trend and be a part of the solution! Healthy food is where health (and profit) begins!   


The relationship between modern diets and C. diff. 

Clostridioides difficile (C. diff.), is one of the leading causes of large infection and disease outbreaks in hospitals, but it is also becoming increasingly present in our communities and is a major threat to our wellbeing. Healthcare providers face major challenges to stop the spread of this infection that easily spreads from person to person. Every year, 15,000 or so deaths occur due to C. diff. In recent years, researchers have been racing to find the reason behind why these bacteria have become so well adjusted and extremely difficult to eradicate. Analyzing the genetic makeup of C. diff., the study authors not only found some reasonings as to how these bacteria evolved but also possible prevention and treatment of C. diff infections. Researcher Nitin Kumar, Ph.D. noted that this study is the first in identifying how the bacterial was primed to feed off of our modern healthcare practices and diets. 


“We show that strains of C. diff. bacteria have continued to evolve in response to modern diets and healthcare systems and reveal that focusing on diet and looking for new disinfectants could help in the fight against this bacteria.”

— Trevor Lawley, Ph. D., study author


The specific type of C. diff. (C. diff. clade A) may thrive in an environment (host) that’s rich in sugar. Find further details on how our lifestyle, such as our diets may exacerbate or reduce the spread of C. diff. Infection here.  


Food as Medicine: Part of a healthy solution for cities and counties from coast to coast  

For a neighborhood to be truly healthy, studies indicate that the community must have access to health-promoting foods such as fruits and vegetables. In addition, those who are food insecure experience many adverse health effects and nearly 1 out of 3 adults with a chronic disease have difficulties paying for food and/or medicine. In West Sacramento, California, patients from a nearby clinic are provided with locally grown produce and go home with a bag full of fresh food. The “Food as Medicine” program in West Sacramento, coordinated by Yolo Food Bank and FARM Davis aims to solve a piece of this chronic disease issue, particularly for low-income and food-insecure residents. Melissa Marshall, the Executive Director of CommuniCare Health Clinic Center in West Sacramento, where the fresh and healthy food is distributed for the Food as Medicine program, noted: “When we use food to prevent or treat chronic illness, we improve access to healthy food and empower patients to improve their health.”

Hop on over to Arizona and you’ll find that just this week city officials in Peoria proposed to include access to foods that lower the risk of chronic diseases to be a part of the general plan. Planning Director Chris Jacques shared that studies suggest chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity can be mitigated or managed by designing the city to be healthy. “Additionally, consuming locally-produced foods can reduce the need for long-distance transportation, which can reduce environmental impacts, and it supports the livelihoods of local producers and local businesses,” he said. When food as medicine is recognized as a viable means to tackle the root cause of chronic diseases at the city or county level, the residents flourish and thrive. 

P.S. If you are near Sanibel, Florida, check out the community presentation on Food as Medicine hosted by F.I.S.H. OF SANCAP and Lee Health Solutions. The next workshop is on September 11, 2019, at 10 a.m. 

Have a healthy and active week(s) ahead and enjoy the rest of your summer!

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