#1271 Food As Medicine

Science Says: “Wow! It Works!”

In our last couple +1s, we talked about the wisdom of addressing root causes of health issues rather than merely treating the symptoms of those issues.

We invited Emerson to the party for some spray-paint gardening fun and wrote ourselves some empowering, life-enhancing prescriptions.

Now I’m ready to deliver on my promise to share the underlying research on food prescriptions that Mark Hyman shares in his brilliant book Food Fix.

(Note: If you want to understand one of (if not, as Mark says THE) fundamental ways to change the world, read this book.)

So…

Let’s flip open our copies of the book to page 56.

The good Dr. Hyman tells us: “Not too long ago a group of doctors and public health experts at Massachusetts General Hospital noticed something striking: Many of the patients who routinely showed up in the emergency room requiring the most medical services were also the patients who seemed to be the most nutritionally vulnerable. They were patients with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and other largely food-related chronic diseases. For hospitals and health insurers, these are among the highest-cost, highest-need patients. Working with a local nonprofit group called Community Services, the doctors decided to launch a study to see whether providing these patients with nutritious meals would have an impact on their health care outcomes.”

Mark continues: “The researchers recruited Medicaid and Medicare patients and split them into groups that either received nutritious meals or did not receive nutritious meals. What the study found was astonishing. The patients who had nutritious meals had fewer hospital visits, ultimately resulting in a 16 percent reduction in their health care costs. And that was after deducting meal expenses. The average monthly medical costs for a patient in the nutrition group shrank to about $843—much lower than the roughly $1,413 in medical costs for each patient in the control group.”

Pause for a moment and reflect on that.

Provide people with nutritious food and, even after accounting for the cost of that food, your health care savings is an ASTONISHING 16%.

(To put that in perspective, if we could take 16% off the projected 95 TRILLION DOLLARS we will spend in the US alone over the next 35 years, that would save us 15.2 TRILLION DOLLARS.)

And, of course, that’s just the economic impact. Consider the Energy and quality-of-life impact those nutritious meals created for the patients and their families.

So…

Mark continues: “Another group of public health experts in Philadelphia studied what happened when a nonprofit group called the Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutrition Alliance (MANNA) delivered healthy meals to people with diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Over twelve months, the patients in the nutritious meal group visited hospitals half as often as a control group and stayed for 37 percent less time. Ultimately, their health care costs plummeted more than 50 percent, or $12,000 a month per patient. Considering that the sickest 5 percent of patients account for 50 percent of overall health care costs in the United States according to the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research, providing meals to the sickest provides a big return on investment. The problem is that insurance will pay for expensive hospital stays but not for food that could literally save billions in health care costs. This must change.”

I typed that last part with a sigh.

It was impossible for me not to think of the picture of his sugar-laden, processed-food dominated food tray my brother sent to me during one of HIS hospital stays as he was fighting cancer.

Not only does insurance not cover prescriptions for healthy food, the very places we go to heal ourselves often serves some of the WORST foods on the planet.

This must change.

Starting with our own food choices.

TODAY.

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