Speaking during the Future Food Tech Summit in London last week, Dr Rupy Aujla, NHS GP and Doctor’s Kitchen cookbook author, said GPs need better training if they are to crack down on the growing number of lifestyle-caused chronic illnesses.
“I think one of the big opportunities being missed by health care professionals is that they don’t understand how nutrition is effecting their patients’ health," he told delegates.
“Having knowledge of nutrition gives us another tool in our medicinal toolbox and it’s very beneficial.
“I know a lot of my colleagues are facing burn out because we are finding we are having to send our patients up the stairway of adding medicine on top of medicine but if we could get to the route course, which is founded in our lifestyles and what we eat, then that would be a huge benefit to the patient.
“There’s been a lot of research come out lately talking about the lack of nutritional training in medical schools but that’s definitely changing.”
In order to create a change, Dr Aujla founded Culinary Medicine, a non-profit organisation which aims to teach doctors and medical students the foundations of nutrition as well as teaching them how to cook.
They have already made great strides in improving nutrition education.
Dr Aujla told the conference: “UCL year five will be the first to have culinary education as part of their curriculum so they can find out the basics of what makes people healthy.
“In addition, for Imperial College years 1 and 2, nutrition training will contribute 20% of their entire curriculum.”
Nutritional advice techniques
Whilst nutrition education is getting better, Dr Aujla added that it can be difficult for a patient to hear that they have caused their own problems through their diet and lifestyle.
He explained how Culinary Medicine recommends GP's deal with this issue.
“We use techniques in motivational interview where we try to bring out the answers from the patients themselves rather than bombarding them with statistics and facts they may not want to hear.”
With the level of nutrition knowledge amongst the general public being so variable, personalising the advice to within that patient’s reality is also very important said Dr Aujla.
“As a GP, we have to make food relate-able to our patients from different communities and different backgrounds…
“In reality, I might just tell them to reduce their four cans of coke a day, to two cans. And that’s a big win for that person!”
Behavioural change is the most important thing for reaching long term goals, and Dr Aujla says there are a number of technology platforms being created to assist people to change their behaviour, including his own.
“I’m currently working on my own behaviour changing tech project which will do your shopping for you to allow you to cook the Doctor’s Kitchen recipes.
“I see that as a great way to harness the tech to help people stay healthy in a sustainable way.”