Food as Medicine


This report was written by Ann Fonfa

“Food as Medicine”: integrating nutrition into clinical practice and medical education.

This program was sponsored by Center for Mind-Body Medicine in association with the University of Minnesota and Georgetown University School of Medicine.

This training program opened with an overview by Susan Lord, MD, the course director. She now has a private practice in Washington, D.C., specializing in complementary and alternative medicine using mind-body approaches, nutrition, Gestalt psychotherapy, and lifestyle counseling. Dr. Lord works in the Center’s international program, developing and teaching mind-body medicine training seminars for healthcare professionals and teachers in countries suffering the traumas of war. (consultant to the Center for Mind-Body Medicine)

Dr. Lord amused the audience by pointing out that we currently use ‘artificial’ lemon flavors in our food and ‘real’ lemon in our furniture polish. She made it very clear that nutrition is not a one size fits all science.

She made a point that the energetic biochemical properties exist fully in whole foods. In explaining this she told the audience of about 150 people of the phytochemicals known to be in apples.

Bioactive components of apples include quercetin (antioxidant); epicatechin (decreases LDL); Chlorogenic acid (carcinogen detoxifier); P-coumaric acid (anti mutagen); Phloridzin (decreases tumor mutation/promotion); Pectin (decreases platelet aggregation). Of course there are probably many more phytochemicals in apples.

Dr. Lord pointed out the nutrients lost when whole wheat flour becomes white flour. About 60% of the calcium is lost, 85% of magnesium, 77% of potassium, etc. A later talk suggested 54 nutrients are removed completely.

For those of you who do not recall, she also reminded the audience that Recommended Daily Allowances (RDA) are the amount of an essential nutrient sufficient to keep most normal healthy adults from developing deficiency symptoms. From a health perspective, this is a minimum basis for a healthy lifestyle, not a pattern for health. Nutrient deficiencies affect biochemistry which affects every organ system leading to imbalances and chronic disease.

Dr, Lord then discussed the value of organic whole foods. She gave the audience a list as follows and challenges us to say what it was:

Amyl acetate, Amyl butyrate, Amyl valerate, Anethol, Anisyl formate, Benzyl acetate, Benzyl isobutyrate, Butyric acid, Cinnamyl isobutyrate, Cognac essential oil, Diacetlyl, Dipropylkeone, Ethyl lactate, Ethyl methylpheniglgycidate, Ethyl intrate, Ethyl propionate, Ethyl valerate, Heliotropin, Hydrozy-pheyl-2-butanone (10% solution in alcohol), a-ionine, Isobutyl anthranilate, Isobutyl butyrate, Lemon essential oil, Maltol, 4-methylcaetophenone, Methyl anthranilate, Methyl benzoate, Methyl cinnamate, Methyl heptine carbonate, Methyl natphthyl ketone, Methyl salicylate, Mint essential oil, Neroli essential oil, Nerolin, Neryl isobutyrate, Orris butter, Phenethylalcohol, Rose, Rum ether, y-undecalactone, vanillin, solvent.

Ready? Strawberry flavoring.

Many of the participants in this course were M.D.s. Some were nutritionists, some dietitians. All wanted to learn new approaches to their patients/clients. I was the sole advocate present.

The first lecture was “Evolution of Our Food Supply and the Human Diet” by John Bagnulo, MPH, PhD, University of Maine at Farmington.

Dr. Bagnulo started out by telling us that humans acquire all NEW atoms from food and our environment in just one year. In 30 days, all our red blood cells are new.

The early hominids ate fruits and nuts, easily gathered foods. One theory about eating meat suggests that it allowed for further brain development (communication, etc.). Hunting required different skills, including cooperation. Eventually humans began to grow food which provided a constant food supply and allowed for larger populations as well as cultural growth. Food becomes a commodity.

One school of thought suggests that the Paleo Diet is of value to people in general and those with cancer, specifically. In this eating pattern, the Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acids is about 3:1. Modern diet is 30:1 See more at

Dr. Bagnulo suggests we have a biological orientation to salt, high fat foods and sweets. He says this is survival oriented since energy-dense foods provide nutrients that keep us full longer. However, the lifestyles we now live make different habits with food a necessity.

We now know that smoked or charred meats are less healthy for us.

He spoke strongly against trans-fatty acids which we know as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils. These were invented to preserve shelf life of foods and were never adequately safety-tested. He said they are toxic and disrupt cellular communication.

From a Food and Drug Administration website:

Q: Why Should I Care About Trans fat? A: It’s important to know about trans fat because there is a direct, proven relationship between diets high in trans fat content and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and, therefore, an increased risk of coronary heart disease – a leading cause of death in the US. On July 9, 2003, FDA issued a regulation requiring manufacturers to list trans fatty acids, or trans fat, on the Nutrition Facts panel of foods and some dietary supplements. With this rule, consumers have more information to make healthier food choices that could lower their consumption of trans fat as part of a heart-healthy diet. Scientific reports have confirmed the relationship between trans fat and an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Food manufacturers have until Jan. 1, 2006, to list trans fat on the nutrition label. FDA estimates that by three years after that date, trans fat labeling will have prevented from 600 to 1,200 cases of coronary heart disease and 250 to 500 deaths each year.

Consumers do not have to wait until January 2006. We can stop eating foods that contain this type of oil RIGHT NOW. It is usually found in baked goods: cookies, breads, crackers, etc. Read labels before you purchase or eat processed foods – don’t forget airline pretzels, crackers, etc.

Dr. Bagnulo spoke about the need for variety in plants. He suggested that growing one plant in a field or one type of tomato, for example, attracts more pests and makes the plants more susceptible to fungus. Many modern farming techniques were designed for ease of operation rather than food quality.

In common with Dr. David Pimentel, he spoke of the need to use less pesticides, less fungicides and less herbicides. He told us that apples could be grown organically without crop loss. Soybeans and peanuts should only be eaten from organic sources because they are otherwise grown near cotton farms which use huge amounts of pesticides. And the wind blows!

There is a list of the worst foods to eat when not organically grown which includes strawberries, stringbeans, spinach, bell pepper, apples, celery, etc. Safer foods include: bananas (the skin protects them), avocado, onion, etc. For more information, see www.

Remember, agricultural chemical runoff can poison the waters and soil all around a farm. He suggested that ‘Roundup’, a pesticide with a cutesie name, could degrade soil and waterways.

Ann’s NOTE: Farmers have been listening to salespeople from pesticide companies for over 50 years. I have spoken to farmers at Farmers’ Markets around the U.S. So many of them tell me it would be impossible without pesticides, yet have no personal knowledge of that.

He talked about the ORAC values of various fruits. (ORAC, short for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity, is a test tube analysis that measures the total antioxidant power of foods and other chemical substances – source: According to Dr. Bagnulo and the Agricultural Research Service (US Dept of Agriculture), foods that score in ORAC may protect cells and their components from oxidative damage and help our bodies fight cancer, heart disease and more.

Foods scoring highest in ORAC units include: prunes at 5770; Kale 1770; Raisins 2830; Spinach 1260; Blueberries 2400; Brussel Sprouts 980; Blackberries 2036; Alfalfa Sprouts 930, etc. Fruits and vegetables win again.

Dr. Bagnulo mentioned that “tiny imperfections in vegetables or fruits are actually beneficial. The reason is that plants produce more phytochemicals in their ‘fight against Insects. I asked if the bruised part of a fruit was thus good to eat – answer–unknown.

Bagnulo also discussed farm raised fish versus wild fish. For more on that issue see

He pointed out that yellow-fin tuna has less mercury than albacore. Some nutritionists think elevated mercury may not be coming from fish at all but as a result of environmental pollutants from smokestacks and other sources. Household cleansers like ‘Top Job’ or ‘Ajax’ contain mercury. For more on safe(r) products see www.

Bagnulo also said that one out of 6 humans cannot convert plant-based Omega-3 essential fatty acids into EPA/DHA and thus need to supplement with fish oil OR eat more fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines).

Discussing healthy fats led to coconuts, which are actually high in saturated fat but it turns out to be a good one. Like avocadoes, it is beneficial. There are other tropical foods that fall into this category as well.

Bagnulo suggested that we consider eating more raw foods. He even eats raw eggs but says he only does that when he knows where they came from (he hails from Vermont). He said that chickens raised under UV lighting had no salmonella.

In response to a question, he suggested that food supplements that aim to supply the benefits of juice are better attempts than one-a-day vitamins, but that eating a fresh fruit or vegetable is the number one choice. The foods within the powders are heated to produce the powder, thus the enzymes are killed.

His reading list:

“Nutrition and Physical Degeneration”, Weston Price, DDS, Price-Pottenger Foundation

“The Paleo Diet”, Loren Cordain, PhD

“Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in Food and Nutrition”. Marion Nestle, PhD, L. Beth Nixon, PhD

“Perspectives in Nutrition”, Gordon Wardlaw, PhD, Jeffrey Hampl, PhD, and Robert DiSilvestro, PhD

“On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen”, Harold McGee

“Food Chemistry”, 3rd Edition, Owen R. Fennema

“Dangerous Liaisons: When Cultivated Plants Mate with Their Wild Counterparts”, Norman C. Ellstrand

“Nutrients, foods and dietary patterns as exposures in research: a framework for food synergy”, David R. Jacobs, Jr. and Lyn M. Steffen (Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78(suppl):508S-13S. FYI this article cites 58 others.

The next talk was by Joel M. Evans, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor, Albert Einstine College of Medicine, Founder and Director, The Center for Womens’ Health, Darien, CT.

“The Principles of Nutrigenomics”

Remember we are NOT Doctors and have NO medical training.

This site is like an Encyclopedia - there are many pages, many links on many topics.

Support our work with any size DONATION - see left side of any page - for how to donate. You can help raise awareness of CAM.