Monday, September 27, 2010

An Apple A Day

I could see the glimmer in my mother's eyes when I started taking nutrition prereq a few years ago. I enjoyed the dreaded organic chemistry and biochemistry classes and I knew what she was thinking - hoping what every cliche tells us a Jewish mother wishes for her child - that I would become a doctor. I told her and anyone else who suggested it that I would not become a doctor. I need my sleep, I faint every time I give blood and though I do not seem to be in a hurry to finish school, I was not about to embark on the long, demanding road to medical school. Nutrition would suffice. As though I were settling. In fact it was a very calculated decision - perhaps the most reasonable and rational one I've made to date. I wanted to change the face of public health and quality of life in the easiest, most basic way possible through an understanding of how the body works in order to address the root problem of most preventable illness while still allowed to maintain my own health and sanity. Well, most of the time. I figured that if everybody eats there would always be a need for health care providers to guide those eating decisions.

No, mom I will not be a doctor. I have not studied anatomy and physiology in the same detail, I have not focused as much time and attention on pathologies and diagnoses (though sometimes watching House I pretend). But I do know a good deal about food, cooking and nutrition and according to a recent article in The New York Times, most doctors cannot say the same. Though there is increasing recognition in the medical community that diet is linked to health, few doctors are equipped to discuss this with patients. This is where dietitians and nutritionists should be acknowledged as filling in the crucial missing link in preventative medicine and chronic disease management.

Ask most doctors why "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" and I wonder what they might say. Ask a nutrition expert and they'll tell you that apples are low in calories, a great source of fiber and they are naturally rich in phytochemicals like quercetin, one of the current darlings of the dietary supplement world. Eating apples can keep you healthy and hopefully out of the doctor's office. I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that the AMA removed a focus on nutrition from med school curricula to keep patients sick and business booming (though a more cynical conspiracy theorist might make that argument). I imagine there is only so much time and over the years the emphasis has shifted to treating conditions rather than root causes. I think that doctors today are overworked and stuck in administrative and financial battles with insurance companies and have less and less time to spend with patients. And I think that they might appreciate a future nutritionist like me easing their patient load with little bits of advice like this: it's apple season (in WA and NY!) so do yourself a favor and go apple picking, make a salad or dip your apples in some honey or caramel and have a sweet year ahead!


  1. Absolutely truthful, informative, factual and fabulous girl! This could be part of your personal statement? go quercetin!!

  2. You're the best!