TUCSON, Ariz., March 12 /PRNewswire/ -- With obesity quickly on its way to being the leading cause of preventable death -- less than six percent of medical school graduates receive adequate nutrition training, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and over 20 percent of US hospitals have fast food restaurants on their premises. Over 450 medical professionals from all over the country addressed the obesity epidemic at a first-ever Nutrition and Health Conference attended by the medical community on March 11-13 in Tucson, sponsored by the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona and Columbia University. "Without an understanding of how specific foods and eating patterns increase or decrease risks of specific diseases, physicians are unprepared to provide nutrition counseling on designing diets for optimal health," says Andrew Weil, MD, founder and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine. "I believe it's up to the medical profession to set the standard for good nutrition which is a key component in living a healthy lifestyle, as well as preventing and treating many disease-specific medical conditions." Conference participants, consisting mostly of physicians and nurses representing hospitals and medical centers throughout the US, committed to starting a national movement to change nutrition education starting with medical students to physicians to parents to schools. As a conference outcome, the following call-to-action was issued to medical schools, hospitals and general consumers and is posted on www.drweil.com. A-Call-to-Action By the First Annual Conference on Nutrition & Health Sponsored By The University of Arizona Program in Integrative Medicine 1. We believe the North American population is in great nutritional peril. People are consuming increasing amounts of low-quality foods. There is an obesity epidemic and in its wake the rising incidence of type 2 diabetes in younger children. More and more consumers are following extreme and fad diets that may pose long-term health risks. The food served in schools, hospitals and senior facilities promotes obesity, chronic inflammation, and accelerated development of age-related diseases. We are also concerned about food safety, given the practices of factory farming, conventional agriculture and the genetic modification of foods. And, we are dismayed to watch the successful exportation of our unhealthy foods and eating habits throughout the world. 2. The current state of nutrition education of health professionals is non-existent to substandard. This is particularly true in the training of physicians. The scientific literature is exploding with information about optimum diets its health effects, both good and bad, of particular foods, food components, and dietary supplements, but this information doesn't find its way into the clinician training. 3. Some consequences of nutritional illiteracy among physicians are: -- Physicians are unable to counsel patients about optimum diet or make use of dietary change as a primary therapeutic intervention or help patients be informed consumers of dietary supplements. -- The medical profession is unable to act as a social and political force to counteract the commercial pressures that have led to the ubiquity of fast food restaurants, soft drinks and low-quality vending machines in public schools and hospitals. -- The food served in hospitals and medical centers in North America -- served both to patients and staff -- is full of high-glycemic-load carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, and less desirable proteins. It includes processed and refined foods that are contraindicated for the prevention of heart disease, cancer, and many other chronic diseases. It must be high priority that our medical centers serve healthy food. -- More than 20 percent of US hospitals now have fast food restaurants on their premises. This is unacceptable. How can the medical profession encourage people to make better dietary choices if it cannot itself exemplify healthy eating habits? 4. The nation is in the grip of low-carb mania, the latest dietary craze. It's important for people to understand that an optimum diet includes a balance of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Carbohydrates are not bad foods. Fats are not bad foods. It's important for people to understand there are good and bad carbohydrate foods, good and bad fats, and better and worse protein choices. 5. If there is any food category that's bad, it's highly refined and processed foods. Modern food technology tends to reduce the nutritional benefits of natural food sources and increase their health risks, as exemplified by the refining and processing of vegetable oils and the processing of whole grains into unhealthy snack foods. 6. We recommend that people decrease consumption of the following foods: Foods of animal origin (other than fish), refined and processed foods, fast food, high-glycemic-load carbohydrates, and polyunsaturated vegetable oils. We recommend they eliminate margarine, vegetable shortening, and products made with partially hydrogenated oils. 7. We recommend that people increase consumption of the following foods: Fruits and vegetables, vegetable protein sources, low-glycemic-load carbohydrates (eg beans, whole grains, sweet potatoes, winter squashes), monounsaturated vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, and omega-3-fatty acid sources (eg oily fish or fish oils, walnuts, flax seeds and hemp seeds). 8. We recommend counseling consumers that dietary supplements are not substitutes for the whole foods that contain them. They may be useful as insurance against gaps in the diet and as natural therapeutic agents to help prevent or treat specific diseases. Pharmacists, physicians and other health professionals must be educated about their appropriate uses, benefits, and dangers. 9. We strongly support organic agriculture and better production, distribution, and marketing of organic product to make it available and affordable to more people. 10. We call on industry to demonstrate leadership in improving the eating habits of North Americans instead of defending their current practices as 'giving people what they want.' We want to see a new generation of fast food restaurants with healthy offerings, modification of snack and convenience foods to conform to current nutritional guidelines, and portion downsizing. Typical portions served in restaurants or packaged for individual sale are two to three times the standard serving size. Giant-sized soft drinks sold in convenience stores cost less per ounce than small ones. We applaud companies who have begun to do this, for example, by removing sources of trans fats from processed foods. We encourage the public to patronize food companies that follow the principles set forth here. 11. We believe the obesity epidemic in North America must be addressed by attention to physical activity as well as to eating patterns. Physical activity has gone down in our population, with many people exercising less than 30 minutes per week. 12. We must work to develop strong programs in nutrition education for physicians and other professionals, including pharmacists, who should be reliable experts on the benefits and dangers of dietary supplements. We must also work to educate consumers about nutrition and healthy eating and get this information into K-12 curriculums for our children. 13. We emphatically state our belief that healthy food can be delicious, convenient and affordable. About the Program of Integrative Medicine (PIM) PIM, founded by Dr. Weil in 1994 at the University of Arizona, was established to train physicians to be Integrative Medicine practitioners. The program's over-riding mission in to foster the transformation of healthcare through innovative educational programs, rigorous scientific studies, and exceptional clinical care that integrates biomedicine, the complexity of human beings and the healing power of nature. The program features a fully operational clinic and fellowship training program. About Andrew Weil, MD Andrew Weil, MD is a clinical professor of internal medicine and the founder and director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona in Tucson. A world-renowned leader in the field of Integrative Medicine, Dr. Weil is also the best-selling author on several nutrition and health books and a frequent guest of "Larry King Live" and "Oprah." Through www.drweil.com, Dr. Weil provides valuable information and insight into incorporating integrative and conventional medicine practices in one's life in order to optimize the body's natural healing mechanisms.
SOURCE Program of Integrative Medicine