When we think of killers, we often conjure images of shadowy figures lurking in the dark waiting to snatch our life away. Rarely do we picture hamburgers, processed foods, or sugar. Yet, the American diet has cemented itself as the largest killer in this country, by far.
In the United States alone, chronic diseases are responsible for seven of ten deaths each year. Imagine that! Picture ten of your friends and colleagues, and now come to grips with the fact that seven of them will likely die from diabetes, heart disease, or cancer. The figures are alarming. The good news is that, with the correct diet, most of these premature deaths are preventable.
Doctors are overwhelmed with sick patients who look to them as the superheroes tasked with saving them. But the current healthcare system doesn’t arm them with all the tools they need. The vast majority of doctors aren’t trained in nutritional or integrative healthcare, and they usually have about 15 minutes per visit with their patients. Then it’s on to the next appointment.
Doctors know there has to be a better strategy. They know they need more resources if they are to help these victims fight back against disease, to say nothing of arming their patients with the tools for preventing them in the first place. This is where leveraging a new set of treatment practices, combined with technology, comes into play.
Nearly a thousand health care providers gathered in Anaheim last week for the International Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference to learn about the benefits of a plant-based diet. Attendance has more than quadrupled since its inception just four years ago, and doctors from more than a dozen countries were there. It’s part of a growing trend to help healthcare providers learn more about the positive impact diet and lifestyle has on patient health.
One of the many prominent attendees was Dr. Rob Ostfeld, a cardiologist from Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. We talked by phone after the conference, and he stressed the importance of dietary changes to attack our healthcare crisis, stating, ‘I absolutely believe that a plant-based diet should be the cornerstone for treating and preventing many chronic diseases.’
Kaiser Permanente , the largest managed-care company in the United States, is one of a growing number of major healthcare companies that recommend a plant-based diet as a cost-effective way to help combat chronic disease. More than 100 healthcare providers from Kaiser were in attendance in Anaheim. It is a sign of the times.
Given the fact that most physicians get less than eight hours of nutrition education while in medical school, this surge in interest is deeply hopeful. Unfortunately, most doctors will never have enough time to teach their patients how to cook or sort through recipes that could work for them. Until recently, the only tools that healthcare providers could offer their patients were books, documentaries, hand-written meal plans or informational booklets.
One popular booklet is The Plant-Based Nutrition Quick-Start Guide, written by a registered dietitian named Kayli Dice. In the past year, The Plantrician Project sold 15,000 of those booklets to healthcare providers all over the country. If doctors (and their patients) are to catalyze significant and sustainable change, they need more tools to win this fight. This is where technology can change the game.
Lighter is the first technological platform built for both healthcare providers and their patients that prescribe food as medicine. Unlike static meal plans and the tools of the past, Lighter’s software produces customizable recommendations, recipes, and grocery lists based on a family’s food preferences, health goals, allergies, schedule, kitchen equipment, etc.
Over 56 leaders in the food space were invited to share their favorite meals and plant-based food recommendations on the platform. The people who provide recommendations range from leading healthcare providers such as NY Times bestselling author Dr. Michael Greger, to athletes such as David Carter, and activists like Jon Stewart’s wife, Tracey Stewart.
Lighter is not the only company jumping in to help healthcare providers; just last week Lighter announced their partnership with Rouxbe, the world’s leading online cooking school. Rouxbe delivers training to over 200,000 home cooks, culinary students, professional cooks and healthcare professionals in over 180 countries. Chef Chad Sarno from Rouxbe took the stage on Friday night at the conference for a wildly popular cooking demonstration. Cooking demos don’t usually happen at medical conferences, but Chef Sarno sees this as an incredibly hopeful sign of change.
Culinary Rx, a partnership between The Plantrician Project and Rouxbe, is an online cooking and nutrition course that health care professionals prescribe to their patients. The course is designed to help people make a transition to a more plant-centric diet with step-by-step ease. Lighter integrates Rouxbe’s instructional cooking videos right into their recipes, so users can follow along as they make their meal.
A growing body of research shows that plant-based eating has the potential to save billions in unnecessary healthcare costs. As our country experiments with value-based healthcare, financial incentives to prevent disease and reduce unnecessary costs will begin to align within our healthcare system. Prescribing nutrition is not the same as prescribing a pill. Luckily, pioneering doctors and startups are working side-by-side to meet these challenges and transform the way we prevent, and fight, chronic disease.
In the words of Dr. Dean Ornish, the man who convinced Bill Clinton to switch to a plant-based diet, and 20+ year advisor to Hilary Clinton, ‘Don’t let anyone convince you that chronic disease is inevitable. Plant-based diets are changing the game.’
Reprinted via Forbes Magazine