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Nutrition Smarts

Food as Medicine: Q&A with Susan Lord, MD

Susan B. Lord, MD is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Georgetown University School of Medicine. Dr. Lord is also the Director of Nutrition Programs for the Center for Mind-Body Medicine.

Dr. Lord is an expert in the area of nutrition and the role it plays in the prevention and treatment of chronic illness. We asked her to answer a few questions about food and the role it plays in preventive medicine.

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SUSAN B. LORD, MD:   Too often in medicine, we ignore the rich complexity of people and focus only on their ailments. Nutritional counseling is a perfect example. Telling people to eat differently to lose weight is rarely helpful. Change in behavior and healing are much more likely if I can help people relieve the stresses in their life and develop their innate strengths. For this, I need to know who they are, not just that they have a weight problem.

FoodFit   What are the most common health problems that can be avoided with proper nutrition?
SUSAN B. LORD, MD:   All the jobs the body must do to stay healthy are dependent on energy derived from food. If our food doesn't contain enough nutrients (vitamins, minerals, fiber, essential fatty acids, amino acids, etc.) then all physiologic systems will suffer, leading to symptoms like fatigue, headaches and depression that have become all too common in our population.

FoodFit   Do you believe that a lifetime of healthy eating practices and active living can actually prevent chronic illness?
SUSAN B. LORD, MD:   There is now ample data documenting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle in preventing chronic illness. Stress management, exercise and nutritious food, in most cases, are far more important than heredity in determining the quality of our health. We now know that our genes are directly influenced by the way we live. This is especially true of nutrition. Certain foods have the capacity to influence genes that govern our individual predisposition to developing specific diseases.

FoodFit   The Center for Mind-Body Medicine offers a professional training program called "Food As Medicine". Describe what you mean by this title and what the goal of this program is.

The Center for Mind-Body Medicine is an educational nonprofit organization dedicated to training health professionals in mind-body-spirit medicine and nutrition. Our professional training program in nutrition, Food as Medicine, honors Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, who first used the phrase, "Let food be your medicine and medicine your food". He understood very well that the nutrients in whole foods have the capacity to maintain or restore optimal balance in the body. Food is truly our first medicine, and as a bonus, it has no negative side effects. Modern science is finally catching up with Hippocrates.

The goal of the program is to train medical school faculty, practicing physicians and other health care professionals to provide nutritional counseling to their students and patients. Many people today are looking to their physicians for nutritional advice to prevent and treat illness. This program provides training that is not yet available in most medical schools.

FoodFit   FoodFit: What do you think is the biggest nutrition-related problem facing our nation today?

The cost in dollars and suffering from eating a diet consisting of processed foods is both huge and reversible. Our challenge is to bring together representatives of government, industry and medicine to develop nutritional public health policy with the goal of improving the health of Americans. We must all work together to figure out ways to make good health more profitable than illness. I believe delicious whole foods have the power to reverse much of the ill health of Americans today. Wonderful meals also bring together friends, family and communities—a welcome antidote to lives that are often too hectic.


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