They Say an Apple A Day - But Is Food Really Medicine?
This article is a 2 minute read using 9 sources
Is Food Medicine? In September this year, the Biden administration released a “National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health” after a nutrition summit (the first to be held in 50 years). The results from this summit are the beginning to get food covered by insurance companies or government vouchers. Pledges totaling $8 billion of dollars from Blue Cross, Krogers and Novo Nordick (a diabetes drug manufacturer), and The Rockefeller Foundation. Google pledges to change its search bar and map settings for Medicare patients to apply for SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program). This pledge is the first of its kind in a long time and heavily adopts a literal “food as medicine” approach. This is a positive step forward in even acknowledging the industrial food complex has made it difficult for consumers to access or even identify real food. For low-income homes access to non-processed foods could be a game changer. Yet it deepens the idea that the latest superfood or vitamin will medically “treat” illness or have immediate health impact.
Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma begins with the following, “A country with a stable culture of food… would not be susceptible to the pendulum swings of food scares or fads, to the apotheosis every few years of newly discovered nutrient and demonization of another. It would not be apt to confuse protein bars and food supplements with meals or breakfast cereals with medicines.” According to Stat, a handful of studies that show results from medically-tailored meals.
One of the strongest is a “retrospective study of around 1,000 adults found that the roughly 500 individuals receiving medically-tailored meals had 49% fewer inpatient admissions and 72% fewer admissions to skilled nursing facilities than the 500 who did not receive meals.” It doesn’t take a cannon of research to know that nutrition and health are linked. However, this latching onto the “food medicine” concept can have unintended negative consequences. An opinion piece from Stat News counters, “A healthy relationship with food is essential to a person’s well-being, but not because it has medicinal properties. Food is not just fuel and it is more than nutrients — and we don’t consume it just to reduce our disease risk.” The same piece also adds, perfectly healthy people still eat food. Further, “Taking this expression too literally can
contribute to intake, to unfairly canonizing or demonizing certain foods, and to turning eating into a joyless and stressful process. People tend to overvalue the immediate impact of what they eat, thinking that a “super food” can have instant benefits while undervaluing the long-term effects of what they consume over their lifetime.”