Happy New Year! As we kick off 2020 and dream of all the exciting opportunities with food as medicine, let’s review the incredible advances we made in the past year. From Food Rx to ground-breaking research, we rounded up the top five food as medicine stories of 2019 (in no particular order).
1) The rise of the post-milk generation
The dairy alternative category continued to grow in 2019. From oat milk to cashew milk, the non-dairy options in grocery stores and coffee shops keep increasing. Preliminary research shows that company returns on soy, rice, and almond milk were about six-percent higher than that of conventional milk and milk products, and the returns on dairy alternatives are forecasted to continue growing at a significant rate.
What does the post-milk generation have to do with food as medicine? The myth that people need dairy to be healthy is being debunked by science. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health states that “although more research is needed, we cannot be confident that high milk or calcium intake is safe”, citing high saturated fat content, possible increased risk of ovarian cancer, and probable increased risk of prostate cancer as reasons for caution. So, let’s raise a glass of almond milk, and toast to a healthy new year (and new generation)!
2) Canada’s Food Guide gets a (industry influenced-free) makeover
Health Canada released their updated Food Guide which recommends "plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often." The guide also recommends water as the drink of choice with no mention of milk or dairy as a necessary food group. Most notably, the guide was created using high-quality scientific evidence and excluded any industry-commissioned reports to eliminate the likelihood for conflicts of interest. It is fascinating to see how their evidence-based guide turned out when industry was removed from the equation!
Other notable recommendations include the suggestion to “cook more often”, the warning to “be aware of food marketing”, and the emphasis on mindful eating and enjoying food. Three cheers for Canada for setting such a stellar example of what science-backed food as medicine really looks like!
3) Whole, minimally processed foods win again
A 2019 landmark study by the National Institute of Health (NIH) suggests that a diet composed of ultra-processed foods drives people to overeat and gain more weight compared to a diet of whole, minimally processed foods. This is significant because ultra-processed foods such as soda, crackers, packaged baked goods, and many breakfast cereals make up the majority (over eighty percent!) of food consumed in America. These foods tend to be shelf-stable, inexpensive, convenient, and highly palatable. Study participants on the ultra-processed diet ate an average of 508 calories more per day and ended up gaining an average of two pounds over a two-week period. In comparison, people on the whole foods diet ended up losing an average of about two pounds over a two-week period. This study is proving something we already know and practice - whole, minimally processed foods win every time.
4) The International Journal of Disease Reversal and Prevention (IJDRP) was born
This ground-breaking, peer-reviewed scientific journal is special. The IJDRP is the world’s first and only completely free, open-access, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to documenting the power of food and lifestyle interventions to prevent, suspend, and reverse disease. It is also developed and published without any industry influence.
The latest issue includes a review of the 2019 ACC/American Heart Association Primary Prevention Guidelines, the link between nutrition and sexual function during menopause, and preliminary outcomes from the HALT clinical trial focused on the reversal of diabetes, obesity, and coronary artery disease. The IJDRP has big plans for 2020, including a partnership with the International Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. We recommend that you read this one cover to cover!
5) Health care providers prescribe food instead of pills
A team at Tufts University and Brigham Women’s Hospital utilized NHANES data to model potential health and cost benefits of offering food prescriptions to those covered by Medicare and Medicaid. They found that offering a thirty-percent fruit and vegetable subsidy could prevent about 1.93 million cardiovascular disease events and save $39.7 billion in health care costs. In addition, a general healthy eating subsidy of the same percentage could prevent about 3.28 million cardiovascular disease events and 120,000 cases of diabetes and save $100.2 billion in health care costs. One of the researchers stated that, “These new findings support the concept of Food is Medicine: that innovative programs to encourage and reimburse healthy eating can and should be integrated into the health care system.”
This final 2019 highlight is a fitting one to end on because it alludes to what is to come in the year ahead. While the past year was a BIG one for food as medicine, including the launch of LighterPRO, the shift to embracing whole, minimally processed foods as the first line of defense continues to grow exponentially. We hope you are feeling as inspired and fired up as we are to bring food as medicine to even more people in 2020!