ASN Journals Explore the New Forefront of Medical Care
The world is facing a global epidemic of diet-related chronic disease. In fact, according to a 2020 article published in The BMJ, “one of every five deaths across the globe is attributable to suboptimal diet, more than any other risk factor including tobacco.” In response, “there is increased experimentation with the use of ‘food is medicine’ interventions to prevent, manage, and treat illness.”
Food as medicine, also known as “food is medicine,” sits at the crossroads of nutrition and healthcare. It may take many forms, including medically tailored meals, medically tailored groceries, and produce prescription programs. ASN Journals support the growing interest in food as medicine, publishing original research articles and reviews that help dietitians, clinicians, and other healthcare providers determine which types of food as medicine interventions work, who benefits the most, and how to best implement them.
Evidence suggests food as medicine can work. Published in Current Developments in Nutrition, “A ‘Food as Medicine’ Program and Its Effects on Healthy Eating and Cooking Confidence” evaluated a community-based pilot study that measured the effectiveness of a food as medicine program designed to improve chronic disease risk factors and outcomes among African Americans living in Washington, DC. Fifty-four participants attended five nutritionist-led, culturally-tailored, nutrition education classes over a period of three months that focused on improving diet and health literacy. Upon completion of the program, ASN member DeAnna Nara et al. concluded that participants “demonstrated significant improvements in all outcome measures of interest.” Participants, for example, made better dietary choices, consumed healthier dietary patterns, and developed new cooking skills. In addition, participants started cooking more meals at home.
Saiuj Bhat et al. reviewed 13 interventional studies that investigated the effect of healthy food prescriptions on diet quality and cardiometabolic risk factors. These healthy food prescriptions typically provided either financial subsidies or direct provisions for fruits and vegetables as a treatment for patients who were experiencing food insecurity as well as cardiometabolic disease. The review, “Healthy Food Prescription Programs and Their Impact on Dietary Behavior and Cardiometabolic Risk Factors: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” published in Advances in Nutrition, found that produce prescription programs “increase fruit and vegetable consumption and reduce BMI and glycated hemoglobin, without significant identified effects on other cardiometabolic risk factors.” The authors did add that their findings should be interpreted with caution “in light of considerable heterogeneity, methodological limitations of the included studies, and moderate to very low certainty of evidence.” They have therefore called for “well-designed, large, randomized controlled trials in various settings to further establish the efficacy of healthy food prescription programs on diet quality and cardiometabolic health.”
A review published in The Journal of Nutrition, “A Systematic Scoping Review of How Healthcare Organizations Are Facilitating Access to Fruits and Vegetables in Their Patient Populations,” noted significant interest among healthcare organizations to offer programs such as food prescription initiatives to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables for their patient populations “as evidenced by the high proportion of studies on this topic since 2018.” Overall, ASN member Susan Veldheer et al. found food as medicine programs had “promise,” but they cautioned that “it is difficult to draw meaningful conclusions about the outcomes of these studies due to the methodological issues identified.” For example, the authors noted a lack of control groups, selection bias, and incomplete reporting. “Future studies will need rigorous study designs and validated data collection tools, particularly related to dietary intake, to better determine the effect of these interventions on health-related outcomes.”
Jennifer L. Troyer et al. conducted a one-year randomized controlled trial among 298 persons with hyperlipidemia or hypertension, in which 50% of participants received seven therapeutic meals per week for twelve months. The meals were designed around Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) principles, which studies have shown can have positive effects on health outcomes. The results of the study, “The Effect of Home-Delivered Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Meals on the Diets of Older Adults with Cardiovascular Disease,” published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that “therapeutic meals improved the probability that the older adults in the study had diets that were intermediate DASH accordant.”
If you are conducting research that addresses food as medicine, please consider publishing your original research study or review with ASN Journals. We will ensure that your important findings are quickly disseminated throughout the world, helping researchers and clinicians successfully develop and implement new food as medicine programs to improve human health and well-being.
Upcoming ASN Webinar: Research Designs to Account for Diversity and Inclusiveness and Impact Food Guidance Policy
March 11, 2022, 12:30 – 2:00 PM EST
This webinar focuses on the consideration of diversity and inclusion when conducting research to inform and implement food and nutrition guidance policy. This webinar is part of the CASP Nutrition Policy Webinar series, designed to help ASN members better understand the interface between research and nutrition policy.