Over 450 Medical Professionals Issue Call-to-Action to Reverse Obesity Epidemic at Unprecedented Nutrition & Health Conference

Integrative health expert and world-renowned author Dr. Andrew Weil calls

nutrition education of health professionals 'nonexistent' to 'substandard'

Mar 12, 2004, 00:00 ET from Program of Integrative Medicine

    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.
              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