Doctors are taught an average of 1 percent of their total lecture time in medical school learning about nutrition, and now one doctor, Dr. Michael Greger, is out to change that by encouraging students to enroll in an extra outside course in nutrition. The average time spent learning about "food as medicine" falls far short of the National Research Council’s recommendation for a baseline nutrition curriculum, according to a new report published by The Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic, which has acknowledged: "Nutrition plays a critical role in the prevention and treatment of many chronic diseases, and diet is one of the most significant risk factors for disability and premature death in the United States." Neither the federal government, which helps fund medical schools nor accreditation organizations—which validates them—enforce any minimum level of diet instruction, so Greger decided to do something about it, by launching a  course to teach med students how to talk to patients about the importance of nutrition in disease prevention and cure.

Given to students in Germany, the 11-part nutrition course, which Dr. Michael Greger is an advisor to, is called The Physicians Association for Nutrition (PAN) International. The purpose of PAN is to teach medical students nutrition and increase awareness in the medical community of the power of plant-based nutrition for treating and preventing diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Taking place in Munich, the online course has more than 2,700 medical students signing up for the 11-part series so far. The organizers are hoping to expand it to the rest of the world.

The first time the course was offered, nearly  2,500 people attended, mostly medical students from Germany. The event's Medical Director, Niklas Oppenrieder MD, says: “This record number of attendees shows us that nutrition and nutritional medicine need to be a much more central part of medical education and healthcare. That’s what we are working for at PAN.”

The 11-part Iss Das! (“Eat That!”) series has been organized almost exclusively by volunteers from the PAN University Groups and brings together renowned experts from diverse specialties of medicine and nutritional science. The online talks will take place between November 2020 and January 2021 and will cover topics such as nutritional medicine in cardiologyfood and the climate crisis, and gastroenterology and the microbiome.

A patient who presents with heart disease, type 2 diabetes or even some forms of cancer (such as colon, or hormonally linked cancers such as breast and prostate) are likely to never hear a word about how changing their diet can help them get healthier, along with taking vital life-saving medicine, according to research. As prevention and intervention, doctors like Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn have used dietary changes to help treat patients facing heart surgery, to the point where signs of the disease have been reversed by adopting a whole-foods plant-based diet.

How does this affect you? The next time a doctor tells you that you need to go on medication, ask about nutrition. No one is suggesting we turn our backs on science, medicine and life-saving drugs or medical progress, but "Let thy Food Be thy Medicine" is as old as the Hippocratic Oath. Food should be a tool in the kit of all doctors facing lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and chronic inflammation. Studies have shown a whole-food plant-based diet low in oil can reverse symptoms of heart disease. Ask your doctor if this is an option for you.

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