Chef Tim Says...

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Dr. Tim Says...

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Dr. Tim Says....

The Intersection of Food and Health

the ingredients for a fish soup, including a whole fish, vegetables, tomatoes, garlic, and spices

I have been standing at the corner of food and health for about 25 years.

During that time I have seen a lot come and go. Low-fat diets, while seemingly founded in good research, have been debunked. We have eliminated trans-fats, and margarine (those that contain trans-fats), once the recommendation of doctors and dietitians, is now known to promote heart disease. We have seen a dramatic rise in obesity during that time that I feel is directly linked to sugar sweetened beverages and the easy availability of inexpensive, calorie dense, nutrient-poor food.

I have always felt somewhat alone in my practice. Yes, I am a chef and a physician - and that's a unique combination. Granted, there were pockets of folks writing about great food as it relates to health and how we should be incorporating that into the day-to-day practice of medicine. We were not, however, in the mainstream. Talking about food in medicine was something of a lonely practice. We have always had great traffic at, but it has always been strange that my chef colleagues have not seen the value of health in food and my physician colleagues haven't seen the value of food in medicine.

That's changing. In a big way.

There are more and more physicians who understand the impact of food on both prevention and treatment of disease as well as organizations who focus on the importance of lifestyle in the practice of medicine. The great thing for you, Dr. Gourmet readers, is that this is now offering patients the ability to find and select a physician that cares about their health in a way that most doctors don't (yet).

You can start with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine. Physicians who belong to the ACLM are lifestyle focused. We have clear evidence of the impact of diet and exercise on preventing as well as helping treat disease, and that is the central focus of the ACLM. Start here to find a provider near you:

The American College of Preventative Medicine is more focused on research and academia, but their mission is to "Promote the specialty of Preventive Medicine and Preventive Medicine physicians to assure an appropriate supply and demand of properly trained physicians to deliver effective and efficient health and health care." That makes sense, and there is, of course, overlap with the ACLM, but the more the merrier, right? In addition to that mission they also have a weight management certification program as well as initiatives in adolescent medicine. You can follow them on Twitter at and their blog is great: Look for physicians who are fellows in the College. They will have the designation FACPM behind their M.D..

There is also the National Board of Physician Nutrition Specialists who have a similar but somewhat more clinical mission. Their mission is to "Develop a long-term plan to increase the pool of PNSs and surmount obstacles that currently impede the incorporation of nutrition education into the curricula of medical schools and primary-care residency programs." They have a physician finder on their web site as well.

Recently I connected with a group that is working to act as a roundtable for these lifestyle issues in medical education. The goal is to make sure that educators have access to the various resources we need to offer curriculum and lifestyle education at medical schools. Their vision is that "medical schools teach lifestyle medicine as an integral component of their curricula" and that "Medical schools will provide an array of evidence-based curricular resources for prevention and treatment of lifestyle-related diseases throughout medical education including core curricula, lifestyle medicine competencies woven into existing curricula, additional electives, rotations, and scholarly concentrations." The collaborative is especially exciting to me:

Here at Tulane University we have the first teaching kitchen operated by a medical school, and the first full-time chef on faculty to teach lifestyle change from a food-first perspective. You can follow the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine on Facebook at An important component of that will be our new certification program for physicians in culinary medicine:

This has been a slow evolution, but I am particularly excited to see how far this concept has come as well as the directions that it is going. Physicians have had a lot of great tools in their toolbox, but the ability to discuss substantive lifestyle issues in a way that can have a tremendous impact has lagged.

It's certainly nice to have others standing at the corner of food and health. It doesn't feel so lonely any longer.

Timothy S. Harlan, M.D.
Dr. Gourmet