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Food is medicine: A presidential advisory from the American Heart Association

Volpp KG, Berkowitz SA, Sharma SV, Anderson CA, Brewer LC, Elkind MS, Gardner CD, Gervis JE, Harrington RA, Herrero M, Lichtenstein AH, McClellan M, Muse J, Roberto CA, Zachariah JP

Unhealthy diets are a major impediment to achieving a healthier population in the United States. Although there is a relatively clear sense of what constitutes a healthy diet, most of the US population does not eat healthy food at rates consistent with the recommended clinical guidelines. An abundance of barriers, including food and nutrition insecurity, how food is marketed and advertised, access to and affordability of healthy foods, and behavioral challenges such as a focus on immediate versus delayed gratification, stand in the way of healthier dietary patterns for many Americans. Food Is Medicine may be defined as the provision of healthy food resources to prevent, manage, or treat specific clinical conditions in coordination with the health care sector. Although the field has promise, relatively few studies have been conducted with designs that provide strong evidence of associations between Food Is Medicine interventions and health outcomes or health costs. Much work needs to be done to create a stronger body of evidence that convincingly demonstrates the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of different types of Food Is Medicine interventions. An estimated 90% of the $4.3 trillion annual cost of health care in the United States is spent on medical care for chronic disease. For many of these diseases, diet is a major risk factor, so even modest improvements in diet could have a significant impact. This presidential advisory offers an overview of the state of the field of Food Is Medicine and a road map for a new research initiative that strategically approaches the outstanding questions in the field while prioritizing a human-centered design approach to achieve high rates of patient engagement and sustained behavior change. This will ideally happen in the context of broader efforts to use a health equity-centered approach to enhance the ways in which our food system and related policies support improvements in health.

Volpp KG, Berkowitz SA, Sharma SV, et al. Food is medicine: A presidential advisory from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2023;10.1161/CIR.0000000000001182. DOI:10.1161/cir.0000000000001182. PMID: 37767686

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Peer Reviewed Research
Health & Health Behaviors
Social Determinant of Health
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