Our Nation’s Biggest Budget & Defense Weakness: Completely Preventable Diet-Related Disease & Death

Published on: November 18, 2021
What Every Physician Needs to Know Now
For way too long in this country, we have treated a person’s health and person’s diet as separate. Don’t take my word for it. Look at the data. In the United States, medical schools devote an average of 19 hours to nutrition education over 4 years. Let me repeat that. Medical schools devote an average of 19 hours to nutrition education over 4 years.  With little of that related to diet and common health conditions. You heard that right. The American people are paying the price.
In 2018, more than 20% of American adults were obese and more than 1 in 10 adults suffered from diabetes. Food is Medicine. All too often it is underutilized as an intervention for addressing diet-related diseases. Instead of prescribing drugs to cure these diseases, there are places where food can help alleviate suffering and address the underlying conditions. These are chronic health problems that cost programs like Medicare and Medicaid millions and millions and millions of dollars and the federal government is doing next to nothing to prevent them at a systemic level and give those on the front lines, our healthcare providers, the tools needed to help people eat healthier.
We cannot continue to ignore the direct connection between a person’s diet and their health, and this starts with making sure our medical providers are equipped with the knowledge and tools to help their patients. We also must note that as we introduce this legislation this week, the COVID19 pandemic continues to impact all of our lives.
Study after study shows us that COVID19-related food insecurity puts more Americans at risk for obesity and that having obesity may triple the risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19. Nutrition, food access, and a person’s health are not only directly connected to each other, they are directly connected to our progress as a nation, and it’s time we treat them as such.  This new bipartisan resolution takes an important step in that direction so that our medical students and physicians are given the training they need to improve nutrition among patients.” – Congressman Jim McGovern
Congressman McGovern, Dr. Walter Willett, Dr. Stephen Devries, and Emily Broad Leib couldn’t have stated the facts better in last week’s #pressconfrence regarding the new #bipartisan bill to start educating America’s doctors about nutrition #nutrition so that they can actually help prevent and manage our nation’s biggest budget and defense weakness: completely preventable diet-related disease and death, including COVID-19. Americans are spending 50% more on healthcare than any other nation, the bills have only been increasing, and our nation’s health has been declining. We are WAY behind: 47th in the world. This is a no-brainer.
McGovern Nutrition Education Press Conference
“Obesity, type-2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and stroke are among the leading causes of death and disability nationwide and are inextricably linked to diet. The costs related to diabetes and obesity alone exceed $500 BILLION every year.
Now get this: despite the clear benefits nutrition education would provide, med students get an average of only 19 hours of nutrition education over 4 years. After med school? Competency requirements in nutrition are completely absent from key medical specialties.
So this week, I’m introducing a bipartisan resolution alongside Congressman Michael Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) calling on med schools, residency programs, and fellowships to start including robust nutrition education so America’s physicians have the tools needed to combat diet-related conditions.” – Congressman McGovern
“If we step back, our systems of medical education are failing. They deserve a big fat F. America spends vastly more that any other country on healthcare, about 50% more, and what do we get for this? Life expectancy has declined 3 out of the last 4 years before the pandemic, and now it’s taken another huge dive, in part, due to poor survival of people with nutrition-related conditions who develop COVID-19…
Poor diets are the most important underlying cause of death and suffering in this co

untry, but education on nutrition and health is minimal in most medical schools, including at my own university, Harvard.  This is part of a huge imbalance whereby all attention is given to treatment of diseases  rather than preventing these diseases by keeping people healthy and happier.
Physicians,  86% in one survey, know they are not prepared to advise patients about nutrition, and medical students understand that they have a major gap in their education. Hopefully, leaders in medical education will heed this appeal to address the glaring lack of nutrition in their institutions. 
Otherwise, I suspect that congress may find other ways to spend the $14 Billion that we provide as a country for medical education and find more effective ways to promote the wellbeing of Americans. ”  – Dr. Walter Willett, MD, PH
Examples of critical nutrition education missing from physician education:
  • Statins are known to cause preventable Vitamin D deficiency, leading to hormone imbalances, sleep problems, and muscle dysfunction
  • 90% of adults who end up with high blood pressure can end up with an unnecessary medication when they could easily lower their blood pressure by eating foods that contain phytochemicals and anthocyanins, like blueberries, which relax the blood vessels, allowing them to increase in size and promote easier blood flow
  • Consuming potassium-containing foods like fruits and vegetables, naturally negates the effects of excessive sodium (salt) intake. Increasing your intake of strawberries, bananas, jicama, spinach, and Swiss chard are easy ways to avoid yet another unnecessary medication and expense



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Nicole Chenard, MS, RD, LDN learn more

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