Dr. Gloria Richard-Davis and UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson talk about the importance of culinary medicine and how fertility and culinary medicine are actually more closely linked than you might think.

What is Culinary Medicine and Why Is It Important?

Culinary medicine is a new evidence-based field in medicine that blends the art of food and cooking with the science of medicine. Culinary medicine’s goal is to help people make good personal medical decisions about accessing and eating high-quality meals that help prevents and treats disease and restore well-being.

Student chops parsley in class.

UAMS began a culinary medicine elective Fall 2019 under course director Drs. Gina Drobena and Gloria Richard-Davis. Through a partnership with Culinary Medicine Specialist Board under the directorship of Dr. Tim Harlan, the program was launched. Dr. Harlan is a board-certified internist and chef who started the program in 2012. They established the first dedicated teaching kitchen to be implemented at a medical school. The curriculum is a flipped classroom model with online learning and quizzes followed by a case-based discussion of patients with chronic medical diseases. The basic course covers eight modules including food safety, knife skills, portion control, macronutrients and some micronutrients involved in the management of all the common chronic diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease. Menus align with the module lesson to facilitate discussion about nutrient-dense food choices, caloric intake, and expenditure to support a healthy lifestyle.

Students working in a commercial kitchenThe University of Arkansas Pulaski Tech Culinary Institute provides a state of the art culinary cooking demonstration kitchen that allows 20+ students with four per station to work in groups and prepare meals. The pre-preparation and planning for meals are directed by Margaret Pauly, RD. Much of the needed food is donated by US Foods.

A practical discipline, culinary medicine addresses the patient’s immediate need, who asks, ‘‘What do I eat for my condition?’’ Helping to educate students to educate patients that food is medicine and can restore health when chosen correctly. As the food is condition-specific, different clinical conditions require different meals, foods, and beverages. Culinary medicine attempts to improve the patient’s condition with what she or he regularly eats and drinks.

Special attention is given to how food works in the body as well as to the sociocultural and pleasurable aspects of eating and cooking. The objective of culinary medicine is to empower the patient to care for herself or himself safely, effectively, and happily with food and beverage as a primary care technique. Community classes integrating service learning for students will help the community become healthier. Arkansas is 47thof 50 in health statistics. Almost 40% of residents are obese with corresponding co-morbidities of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, strokes.

Rise in Culinary Medicine

Five reasons for the rise in interest in culinary medicine are:

  • Flourishing interest in eating out away from home and in food and cooking in popular entertainment media, as well as in oft-conflicting popular dietary advice, especially about weight management and chronic illness
  • Widespread dissatisfaction with conventional medical approaches to chronic illness together with popular excitement about integrative medicine
  • Near ubiquity of highly processed and convenience foods, accompanied by an increasing suspicion of their health value and the acknowledgment of the hyper-palatable nature of fast food
  • The rising cost of health care, with the growing economic burden of diet-related non-communicable health risks and diseases; with reports of some 30% of low-income older US adults having to choose between purchasing medication or food and with the dearth of healthy food procurement and promotion policies in institutions, worksites, schools, and government
  • Revived enthusiasm for additive-free organic food, home gardening, local agriculture, and farmers’ markets.

We AR Cooking for a Better State of Health!

LaPuma, J, What is Culinary Medicine and What Does It Do? Pop Health Manag 2016