College of Medicine’s latest ‘Food on Prescription’ conference

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Dr Eleanor Crossley MRCS(ENT), council member of the College of Medicine, writes about the College’s latest Food on Prescription conference.

Ketogenic diets, intermittent fasting, ‘superfoods’, health supplements… the list goes on. Today’s media regularly features the latest diet fads and theories in the field of nutrition, but the College of Medicine’s latest Food on Prescription conference gave an opportunity for healthcare professionals to hear updates from some of the most renowned experts in the field.

Over 300 delegates gathered in London on Thursday 24 October 2019 for the second conference organised by the College of Medicine with a primary focus on food.

Speakers endorsed cooking using a multitude of ingredients, ‘whether it ran, swam, flew or grew’, and encouraged making simple adjustments to your diet based around the nutritional value of different foods. Did you know there is seven times more vitamin C in the riper red pepper, compared to its green counterpart?

Childhood obesity was another key topic, alongside the relevance of setting childhood nutritional preferences and weaning. Dr Gillian Harris, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, presented some astonishing facts on weaning, including that only 1% of UK mothers breastfeed until their child is six months old. She encouraged the introduction of different tastes, frequently and consistently, to infants over time. This was supported by the finding that introducing complementary foods at an age of four to six months, often a single food taste, significantly predicted fruit and vegetable consumption (where ready-prepared foods did not). She also advocated the introduction of ‘lumpy’ or textured foods between 6 and 12 months of age, to help prevent issues with food acceptance later in childhood.

Thought-provoking and practical tips really were the theme of the day, with Dr Zoë Harcombe and speakers from Penny Brohn UK also giving pragmatic ideas for how healthcare professionals can positively influence the dietary choices people make, especially when affected by cancer.

The year six children of Padiham Green School (as pictured) stole the hearts of the audience, presenting their new understanding of where food comes from and what it does to their bodies, learned during their ‘Edible Explorers’ programme.

This forward-thinking initiative has been introduced as part of Dr James Fleming’s inspirational ‘Green Dreams Project’ in Lancashire. Whilst the idea of letting a group of young school children loose with food ingredients, kitchen knives and an allotment might be a little nerve-racking for some, it was clear from the children and their motivated teacher, Laura Sumner, that this experience is more than just a short programme. The project instills lifelong skills, giving young children and their families’ the knowledge and enthusiasm to cook and eat healthily together using fresh ingredients, on a budget. This simple but emotive concept demonstrated exactly what the UK’s childhood obesity crisis needs – we could all take a leaf out of their book.

Follow the College of Medicine on social media @collegemed.

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