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Eisenberg Promotes “Teaching Kitchen” to UC Community

Eisenberg Promotes “Teaching Kitchen” to UC Community

Published: 10/18/2016

Courses in gross anatomy, biochemistry, histology and pathology are the standard for medical students across the country. But far too few are taught as part of the curriculum how food, nutrition and mindfulness come together to shape the behaviors of future patients and influence health, says one of the nation’s top nutritionists.

Health professionals have no requirement to know how to teach patients to cook healthy, balance stress and understand nutrition, says David Eisenberg, MD, associate professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. "It’s not on any professional board exams. To their credit the national board of medical examiners is looking at this and saying we have to change this.”

Eisenberg came to UC’s Kresge Auditorium in the Medical Sciences Building Sept. 23, 2016, to present "Nutrition and Mindfulness in an Era of Obesity and Diabetes—Might Teaching Kitchens Serve as Catalysts of Personal and Societal Transformation.” The talk, part of the fifth annual Dr. Khushman V. Sanghvi Memorial Lectureship on the Mind-Body Interface in Health and Healing, preceded a community event held to celebrate the opening of a "teaching kitchen” at the Cincinnati area’s largest local organic farm, Turner Farm Inc., in Indian Hill. 

The kitchen will in part be used for educational programs on healthy living, including culinary and nutritional literacy, mindful eating, movement, self-care and personal responsibility for health in close collaboration with the UC Center for Integrative Health and Wellness. Center faculty members will interface with Turner Farm’s kitchen to teach medical students, nurses, physicians and other health care professionals and students about integrative health practices and principles, with a focus on food as medicine for patients and themselves. 

Eisenberg is founder of Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives, an initiative of Harvard University and the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) launched in 2007 that brings health professionals from around the country to participate in a series of seminars led by Harvard researchers and cooking workshops led by CIA chef-instructors.

"This medical school (UC College of Medicine) in association with the teaching kitchen at Turner Farm has assets that no other medical campus or university has in the United States or in the world,” says Eisenberg.

Medical schools must be at the forefront of change because while rates of various diseases such as stroke, cardiovascular disease and cancer have dropped precipitously during the past four decades largely due to technological and medical advances evidence suggests this trend will not continue, explains Eisenberg, who argues researchers are projecting 100 million Americans are on the fast-track to developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

"What do we in the medical profession do when our technological tricks are exhausted?” says Eisenberg. "There is evidence that children in America today will live shorter lives than their parents for the first time in our history.”

Improving health outcomes will mean changing daily behaviors and physicians and patients will have to learn how to choose, properly prepare and consume meals in ways that improve health, says Eisenberg. In a society where many Americans are battling stress and feeling their time is increasingly constrained, overeating and the choice of "quick” processed foods are often the result, he says.

Eisenberg prefers a Mediterranean diet consisting of a high concentration of vegetables, grains and olive oil with only modest meat consumption. He referenced a study which followed 7,500 people in Spain for a five-year period found that individuals on a Mediterranean diet had a 30 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

Mastering the techniques of mindfulness—focusing one’s awareness on the present moment and seeing things as they are without judgement—can help lower stress and allow individuals to remain present when preparing and consuming meals with family, says Eisenberg.

He also referenced a scientific study conducted by Harvard University which showed that individuals who eat a home at least five nights a week could cut their risk of Type 2 diabetes. The researchers followed 100,000 individuals for more than 20 years monitoring their diet and found individuals who ate at home more often could cut their risk of Type 2 diabetes by 15 percent.

Author Charles Duhigg of "The Power of Habit” coined a phase "key habits” to describe habits that have the power to transform an individual’s life, says Eisenberg. Nutrition, mindfulness and exercise, which often goes hand-in-hand with better eating, are keystone habits, he says.

Pamela Baker, PhD, associate dean for medical education, says Eisenberg’s talk was provocative because it challenges the culture of medicine.

"Let’s help our students model what they need to teach their patients and one of the focuses needs to be nutrition,” says Baker. "Teaching kitchens are a great start, but this needs to be happening in home kitchens. We need to explore what it is about our culture in the United States and other parts of the world where cooking at home is not happening enough anymore to ensure healthy eating. 

"We need to talk more about nutrition and healthy eating habits and how we can do it on a budget,” says Baker.”

Sian Cotton, director of the UC Center for Integrative Health and Wellness agreed.

"UC’s Academic Health Center is taking the lead locally, and joining many other highly ranked institutions nationally, to teach the next generation of upcoming health care providers the value of healthy behaviors, personal responsibility, and choosing wellness – both personally and professionally,” says Cotton, an associate professor of medicine.

 "It is a movement in our community that is exciting, unstoppable, and critical for the well-being of our children and grandchildren,” says Cotton. "We look forward to partnering with the Turner Farm Teaching Kitchen and many others to move health and wellness initiatives forward more robustly in our community.”

For more information on the Center’s programs and initiatives contact Lisa Doogan at dooganla@ucmail.uc.edu or call 558-2310.

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