Nutrition in Healthcare: Science and Awe of Healthy Eating

On September 11, 2015, MATTER of Chicago hosted Dr. Stephen Devries to speak about advancing the role of nutrition and lifestyle in healthcare. MATTER is a community on health care entrepreneurs and leaders that works to and supports innovatively advancing nutrition in health care. At this event, Dr. Devries reviewed the science behind optimal diets in relation to health with emphasis on practical application. He discussed nutrition related topics including food as medical intervention, benefits of natural foods, dietary changes leading to larger health benefits, and foods and nutrients to watch out for as well as consume more. Real Dietitian commends MATTER for supporting nutrition’s status in health care and advocating medical nutrition therapy more within health care facilities and doctoral programs.

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.”


Dating back to 400 BC, ancient Greek physicians were infatuated with the healing powers of the Earth’s resources in treating disease. Hippocrates, in particular, was an advocate in believing nutrition and diet play an enormous role in disease prevention. He devoted much of his time to studying and teaching others the medicinal effects of food on the human body. Similar to Hippocrates, Dr. Stephen Devries, Executive Director of the Gaples Institute for Integrative Cardiology, believes that nutrition is the key ingredient to a healthy, disease-free life.

Dr. Devries outlines the facts behind the links of diet and disease in “Science and Awe of Healthy Eating”. According to his presentation, 80% of heart disease is completely preventable by lifestyle choices. Studies show that nutrition is the number one risk factor in early deaths caused by smoking, alcohol, and sedentary lifestyle. Healthy eating is an under-educated concept in the matter of disease prevention. Dr. Devries and other members of Gaples Institute seek to increase, advance and expand nutrition training for physicians and medical doctors. It is crucial that doctors know and understand how much proper nutrition can reverse and treat disease. In a study discussed during the “Science and Awe of Healthy Eating”, only 14% of physicians surveyed reported to have received adequate nutrition training yet 61% of the public believe doctors are a very credible source of nutrition info.

In nutrition education and disease prevention, a few noteworthy diets have been proven to be more effective than others. Consumers of the Mediterranean diet reported to have 72% fewer heart attacks than the control group who was told to eat less fat, but not follow a specific diet. The Mediterranean Diet has shown extremely beneficial results by eating a diet based off of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, fish, and olive oil. The diet focuses on eating less meat and more fatty fish to ensure that you are getting omega-3 fatty acids. Healthy fats, like omega-3’s are known to reduce risk of heart disease, increase brain function and more. Filling your plate with more fruits and vegetables will also provide you with your daily vitamins and minerals, no pills necessary!

The DASH diet is also a diet considerable to regulate blood pressure and treat hypertension. The DASH diet places emphasis on getting about eight to ten servings a day of fruit and vegetables. DASH dieting focuses on eating less sodium to treat medical conditions. Researchers found that in only two weeks DASH dieters blood pressure dropped seven points in persons with an average blood pressure and eleven points in persons with high blood pressure. In his presentation, Dr. Devries stated that each daily serving of dark green leafy vegetables can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by 23% and also that eating three servings of blueberries a week reduced consumers heart attack risk by 34%. Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can be immensely beneficial to improving overall mental and physical wellbeing.

When looking to reduce risk of chronic disease or illness, be sure to watch for artificial sugars/sweeteners. According to Stephen Devries, these sugary suspects hidden throughout our food encourage the growth of bacteria in our guts which in turn, causes the liver to produce more unwanted sugars. Too much artificial sugar within the body will cause larger, faster blood sugar spikes. Our body reacts to artificial sweeteners this way when one consumes diet soda. Dr. Devries also finds it important to replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fat to reduce risk of heart disease. Simply replacing saturated fat with carbohydrates does not offer health advantages and typically leads to eating more refined carbohydrates.

Small changes make all the difference in terms of cleaning up your diet. Medical doctors and physicians would surely benefit from receiving nutrition training in order to maximize patient education and recovery. Doctors and patients must work together to understand how using food can speed up the recovery process by negotiating nutrition plans. For extended analysis, patients may seek a registered dietitian to assist with further education. Nutrition education for medical personnel can be as simple as what Stephen Devries discussed in the “Science and Awe of Healthy Eating”. Educating patients on topics such as the Mediterranean and DASH diets, artificial sugars and good/bad fats could have great effects on their treatment and recovery. Ancient physicians used and studied food as medicinal treatment for patients; using food as medicine today, is severely unregulated and overlooked.


Dr. Stephen Devries “Science and Awe of Healthy Eating”


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