A new evidence-based textbook, aimed at health professionals, advocates for the role of plant-based nutrition in overall health, as well as the treatment and prevention of chronic disease.
Aimed at students and qualified health professionals, Plant-Based Nutrition in Clinical Practice will bridge a knowledge gap, identified by co-editor Dr. Shireen Kassam, a university lecturer, hematologist, and founder of Plant-Based Health Professionals.
“We hope this book will be a game-changer within healthcare curricula in the UK and beyond,” she told Plant Based News. “Plant-based nutrition is not only beneficial for individual health but is essential for dealing with the climate and ecological crises.”
“To date, this topic has not been widely taught at university or in medical school. We hope this book will act as a guide for all practicing healthcare professionals.”
The book is an evidence-based reference resource that offers advice regarding the use, benefits, and “practical applications” of integrating plant-based diets into clinical practice. It also focuses on the increasing popularity of lifestyle medicine.
Professional and personal motivations collide
Kassam, a consultant hematologist at King’s College Hospital in London, adopted a plant-based diet in 2013. The decision positively impacted her health, leading to a personal investigation into the science underpinning the benefits of a vegan lifestyle. From here, she went on to discover the benefits of plant-based nutrition as a proactive lifestyle intervention.
Kassam is now a certified lifestyle physician, alongside her hematology role. This experience is mirrored by her sister and co-editor Dr. Zahra Kassam, an oncologist and lifestyle physician. The two were also joined by a third co-editor, Lisa Simon, a registered dietitian.
The need for an overarching professional resource that supports plant-based diets as a tool for medical experts became apparent when Kassam was invited to design a CPD-accredited course for the University of Winchester. “Plant-Based Nutrition; A Sustainable Diet for Optimal Health” has been running for three years.
“It has been hugely successful and popular as more healthcare professionals recognize the benefits of using plant-based nutrition in their clinical practice as an adjunct to conventional pharmaceutical treatments,” Kassam noted in a statement.
“In running this course, I realized that there wasn’t the ideal companion textbook, nor indeed a suitable textbook for inclusion into other healthcare courses, on the role of plant-based nutrition in clinical practice.”
The food system as a driver of health and climate crises
Addressing the current food system, Kassam’s book connects the climate crisis to rising health issues in the global population. It also offers quantifiable research in support of plant-based diets as the solution to both.
The food system relies heavily on animal agriculture. However, the production of meat and dairy are environmentally catastrophic. Plus, consumption of such products can have negative health consequences.
Climate experts recommend a widespread shift away from animal-based foods. They warn that without a move towards mainstream veganism, we are on route to “global suicide.”
This is due to the vast emissions connected to meat and dairy production. These make it unlikely that global warming can be limited to 1.5°C, as per the Paris Agreement. Contributing a minimum of 14.5 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, animal agriculture is particularly damaging due to the amount of methane it produces.
Capable of heating the planet far more efficiently than carbon, methane emissions are a priority for the UN. As such, it demands a 45 percent reduction by 2030.
The health impacts of meat
Animal-based foods have also come under fire for their impact on health.
Research has associated red and processed meats with an increased risk of heart disease and a higher likelihood of certain cancers. Investigations into dairy’s effects on personal health revealed similar findings. Research suggests that cancer, diabetes, and Crohn’s disease are more likely in people who regularly consume animal products.
Kassam made headlines earlier this year. She claimed that the NHS could save more than £30 billion if the UK turned vegan. Using a new Taiwanese research paper, she demonstrated that vegetarians require fewer medical interventions. Additionally, they also suffer from serious illnesses less frequently than meat-eaters.
At the time, Kassam told Metro: “The climate crisis really is a health crisis and we can’t detach the two.”
Her new book presents fellow physicians with an opportunity to start the plant-based diet conversation earlier in a care program. This could potentially prevent worsening health conditions.
Plant-Based Nutrition in Clinical Practice is available now in print and ebook variations. Those interested can view it here.
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