It was Hippocrates who first said “Let thy food be thy medicine.” And while it may have taken a few thousand years for this to really catch on, doctors in New York City have finally started applying this concept to their patients.
NYC docs involved in the Wholesome Wave program have now started writing prescriptions for fruits and vegetables for their patients battling obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high-cholesterol, and other weight-related diseases. Instead of drugs for weight loss, doctors provide these patients with a “prescription” of sorts to eat more vegetables and fruits.
It is this program’s goal to empower under-served and low-income communities with access to healthy foods in efforts to manage obesity and its resulting health conditions. In recent coverage from the New York Times, success stories are popping up throughout the 1200 different low-income families enrolled in the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, or FVRx, in four major hospitals throughout New York City.
By Janis Jibrin, M.S., RD, Best Life lead nutritionist
Here’s a secret from a nutrition insider: Even experts find weight loss fraught and confusing. A recent paper by The Obesity Society, a scientific organization devoted to researching causes and treatments for obesity, says as much. In an attempt to provide clarity, the organization published core guidelines. Not earth-shattering by any stretch, they provide an un-faddist view of the basics of weight control.
BMI is just a screening tool, not a diagnosis of 25 to 29.9 is considered “overweight” and 30-plus is “obese.” If you’re at 25-plus, you don’t necessarily need to lose weight. But if you also have a waist circumference greater than 35 inches for women or greater than 40 inches for men, you likely do need to shed pounds.
Focus on percent of weight loss, not ideal BMI. Not everyone needs to drop below a BMI of 25 to be healthy, and some just cannot. Instead, if you have too much body fat, focus on losing at least three to five percent of your starting weight—it can significantly improve blood pressure and other aspects of your health. Losing more, like 10 percent, can be even more helpful. (more…)
Obesity is no longer a disorder, it’s a disease.
This week, the American Medical Association voted to reclassify obesity—a $150 billion annual health care headache—from a chronic health condition to a disease. According to the CDC, 35 percent of adult Americans are obese. To be considered obese, you must have a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher. A healthy BMI is is between 18 and 25, and the CDC has a handy BMI calculator on their website.
Dr. Richard Besser, Chief Health and Medical Editor for ABC News, couldn’t care less about the formalities. “I think it matters little whether we call obesity a disease, a condition, or a disorder,” he told us. “It matters less what we call it than what we do to prevent it.”
The question is, how will medical treatment change in response to this new decision? Labeling obesity a disease quickly left those in the medical establishment with uncertainty about the future of obesity treatment. There are a slew of surgical procedures that combat obesity, none of which cure it completely. The onus is on the patient to follow through with the treatment and reach a healthy weight. Obesity is a unique disease because nutritional education, fitness awareness, and simple willpower are the most effective remedies. “We need to get physical activity back into everyone’s lives, starting with our kids,” said Dr. Besser.
Greta Funk is a mother of four who runs multiple 5K races each year and stays busy chasing her brood across the plains of Kansas. To look at this busy mama, all feisty 5 foot 3 of her, you’d never know that at one time, she weighed just shy of 200 pounds. Through portion control, food tracking and consistent cardio workouts, Greta has managed to shed 51 pounds and keep it off.
Through high school, Greta remembers being thin but said she noticed the pounds start to creep on when she started college. She gained the classic Freshman 15 and then once she started having babies, the pounds refused to budge. Poor eating habits added to the weight gain. “I was terrible about watching portion sizes or stopping when my brain was full,” she said.
The validity of the BMI measurement tool has long been a point of contention among health professionals and consumers alike. A new report will not only cast further doubt, but actually go one step further: overweight people may live longer than their “normal” weight counterparts.
According to the report involving nearly three million people from nearly 100 studies, those who were overweight had a lower risk of death than people who were normal weight, defined as a BMI range of 18.5 – 25.
“Fat per se is not as bad as we thought,” said Dr. Kamyar Kalantar-Zadeh, professor of medicine and public health at the University of California, Irvine, in a story at New York Times.
While that may sound controversial, the fact of the matter is that health is often so much more complex than we’d like. Weight is but one factor in our health. You may be heavy with normal blood pressure, or thin with dangerously high cholesterol or blood sugar levels. (more…)