Could using culinary medicine to treat obesity provide a solution?

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Obesity is a risk factor for many health conditions. Current treatments include calorie restriction, bariatric surgery, and medications. But the number of people with obesity continues to increase. Many factors lead to weight gain, including the increased availability of calorie-dense foods. Medical News Today looked at whether culinary medicine might be an effective obesity treatment, and investigated what approaches might work on a population level.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 1.9 billion persons worldwide were overweight in 2016, with 650 million obese. Between 1975 and 2016, the global prevalence of obesity tripled.

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Obesity affects more than 40% of adults in the United States and more than a quarter of individuals in the United Kingdom.

Obesity is acknowledged to be harmful to one’s health. Many dangers of obesity are listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including:

  • higher mortality (risk of death) from all causes
  • elevated blood pressure (hypertension)
  • high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high triglyceride levels (dyslipidemia)
  • coronary heart disease type 2 diabetes
  • stroke

Osteoarthritis is characterized by the breakdown of cartilage and bone within a joint, as well as sleep apnea and breathing difficulties.

A variety of cancers

“Given dire implications in terms of comorbidities and mortality, these updated epidemiological findings call for coordinated actions from local and regional governments, the scientific community, and individual patients alike, as well as the food industry, for the obesity pandemic to be controlled and alleviated,” according to a report published in August 2022.

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The authors advocated for coordinated international measures to tackle the obesity pandemic, akin to COVID-19.

Why is there an increase in obesity?

According to a recent editorial in the journal Obesity, the following causes the growth in this condition:

“Increased per capita food supply, increased availability, and marketing of high-calorie and high-glycemic-index foods and beverages, larger food portions, leisure time physical activities being replaced with sedentary activities such as watching television and using electronic devices, insufficient sleep, and use of weight-inducing medications.”

“The causes of obesity are numerous; heredity has a role; evolution is a very gradual process but can also play a role,” says Dr. Mir Ali, bariatric surgeon and medical director of MemorialCare Today.

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“Obesity is mostly caused by a shift in our diets toward more energy-dense foods, as well as a more sedentary lifestyle.” Environmental factors such as urbanization can also play an impact, he says.

Risks associated with childhood obesity

Obesity is not only increasing in adults; the number of obese children has risen drastically. Since 1975, the number of obese children and adolescents has climbed tenfold worldwide. If this trend continues, there may soon be more obese youngsters than underweight children.

This is especially concerning because childhood obesity predisposes a person to a variety of health problems.

“The younger a child is while developing obesity, the higher the odds of developing health problems as an adult,” Dr. Daniel Ganjian, a pediatrician at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, told MNT. Furthermore, the earlier a youngster becomes obese, the earlier health problems develop.”

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These health issues

Fatty liver disease, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular illness, excessive cholesterol, menstruation irregularities, impaired balance, and orthopedic difficulties.

Obese children are more likely to remain obese throughout adolescence and even adulthood. According to one review of known studies, 55% of obese children will continue to be obese in adolescence, and 80% of those teenagers will be obese as adults.

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However, the same study found that 70% of adults with obesity did not have childhood obesity, implying that focusing on childhood obesity is unlikely to cure the problem.

Obesity is a worldwide problem.

There are therapy alternatives for people who are obese, according to Dr. Ali: “Surgery for those with an appropriate BMI.” […] There are some newer drugs on the market that have shown promising outcomes in the right patients. Dietary and exercise education/counseling can also be beneficial for some people, albeit it is the least successful technique.”

However, according to the WHO, obesity, and being overweight are no longer only personal issues, but a global epidemic known as “globesity” that is sweeping many corners of the globe. Not only that, but obesity is an increasing concern in emerging countries; it is a problem in developed countries.

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Culinary medicine is defined as an “emerging evidence-based field that combines nutrition and culinary knowledge and skills to assist patients in maintaining health and preventing and treating food-related disease through the consumption of high-quality, healthy food in conjunction with appropriate medical care.” Culinary medicine has the advantage of being a non-harmful intervention that may be implemented at the earliest stage of obesity development.

“This is the first scoping evaluation of Culinary Medicine programmes in medical schools in the United States.” We hope that this will be an invaluable resource for the many medical schools wishing to create programmes and in need of a compiled literature base, as well as information on funding, assessment methodologies, and lessons learned.

“Food is the leading cause of premature death in the United States, and culinary medicine has the potential to turn the problem into a cure.