THE BLOG
01/30/2015 05:51 pm ET Updated Apr 01, 2015

Unhealthy Hospital Food Must Stop

The contrast has been too great. One the one hand, in Detroit last night we celebrated the phenomenal growth in 12 months of a grass roots support group started to aid community members seeking help maintaining heart disease reversal diets as taught by Drs. Ornish and Esselstyn (www.pbnsg.org). This brave group grew out of a cup of tea I had with a remarkable man, Paul, who beat the recommendation for bypass surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. Rather, he embraced the research by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, shunning all animal products and oil, dropping 40 pounds and 100 mg/dl in his cholesterol, and now passing all stress tests with flying colors. Paul understood that the power of his fork was greater than the scalpel. The nutrition group is independent of any hospital (they all told us they had no interest), is influencing restaurant menus in the area including my own cafe, and routinely draws a few hundred people every month to educational meetings and small group discussions. Last night the attendance at our monthly meeting was over 900 packed into a high school auditorium to hear Dr. Esselstyn and his family speak of the hope that lifestyle change offers heart patients.

On the other hand my dear friend Allan, a podiatrist in the greater Detroit suburbs, sent me a passionate plea for help this morning. He had been following my social media health posts and decided I was on to something. In the course of nine months he lost 70 pounds by social media support and dropped his cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. He has blossomed into quite a chef and writes a blog documenting his amazing transition. His distressed call this morning was that at his morning hospital meeting for staff members, the usual fruit tray had been replaced by oily hash browns, fried eggs, and greasy bacon. Not a strawberry or blueberry in site. The fallback was nutrient-poor bagels and coffee.

How polar opposite can these two events in 12 hours be? The community group of largely non-medical individuals embraces the science that food is medicine, that disease can be prevented and reversed with whole food, plant-based menus, and chooses to shun processed foods rich in salt, fat and sugar. They understand that whole food, plant-based diets speak to our very genetic code to turn off regions on chromosomes that accelerate inflammation, vascular damage and cancer. [1] [2]

Simultaneously, hospital administrators and dietitians, including medical staff members, appear to hide behind the all-purpose shield that doctors do not receive much nutrition training during medical school and subsequent practice. This excuse is simply not tenable in an era where the information highways provides us unlimited resources.

The tragic comedy that most hospital food can promote the very diseases that medical professionals seek to treat is highlighted by the dozens of fast food establishments within hospitals. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recently listed at least 20 hospitals with a Chik-fil-A, 18 with a McDonalds, and five with a Wendy's including one that I have hospital privileges at. In hospitals without fast food restaurants, the excess of donuts, cakes, cookies, fried foods, processed meats, and ice cream equals or exceeds the insult to intelligence.

Decades ago doctors made rounds with a cigarette in hand. It took years to ban this and smoke-free campuses are now the norm. We are at a point where the scientific basis that diet, no matter what title it is given, must be composed of mainly real "food, not too much, mostly plants." The dangerous excesses of salt, sugar, fat, additives, preservatives, food colorings, and chemical flavoring that describe Big Food in hospitals simply can no longer be tolerated. Medical activists must speak up and demand that junk food go the way of cigarettes on hospital campuses. I sent Allan's blog on his unhealthy hospital breakfast buffet to hospital CEOs, presidents and chairmen of the board, chief medical officers, and chiefs of staff demanding more transparent and responsible food services for physicians, nurses, patients and their guests. Change must come and it must come fast no matter what the outcry by the public and by staff. Only then can we claim the role of healers and practice the in the spirit of the ancient physician Maimonides, who advised, "No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means."

References:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23902780

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23902780