Specialist says doctors and medical nutritionists should work together

By Caribbean Medical News Staff

Medical nutrition, exercise therapy, exercise and traditional medicine can all help in the world’s fight against Non Communicable Chronic Diseases (NCDS). So says Pedro Forte, qualified Specialist in Exercise Therapy and Physiology and a certified Personal Trainer currently ending his specialist studies in nutrition.

“For years we have been seeing a steady increase in NCDs and related complications. Obesity has been shown to be connected to issues relative to hypertension, cancers (some), diabetes type 2 and a number of other illnesses. I believe that we will only see great gains in reducing NCDs with a public awareness campaign which illustrates the dangers of NCDs, many of which include early death. I think it is time that disease is not only prevented by treated using medical nutrition interventions”, he said.

Nutrient density is key

A nutritional therapy practitioner or clinical nutritionist combines the bio-chemical individuality of each client with a nutrient dense, properly prepared whole food diet and nutritional supplementation in order to return the client to a state of optimal health. They strive to treat the body as a whole – addressing the causes of problems, not just the symptoms.

According to Forte, a diet rich in plant based foods, grass fed meat based protein, fish, whole grains, peas, beans and legumes alongside a daily exercise regimen are more likely to encourage good health and thus a more productive society.

“Such therapy has to be customized and specific and we must work alongside medical practitioners. In Barbados, we have the dubious distinction of being called the amputation capital of the world. We have up to 11 heart attacks a month, 49 strokes a month and today we heard that there are too many obese children. Diabetes is so rampant that it is nothing short of alarming. In my practice, I can certainly attest to the fact that I treat hypertensives, diabetics, obese children and adults and while medical intervention is needed (required), exercise and diet can play a role in prevention or control of symptoms, post facto”, he said.

Nexus between diet and longevity

He encouraged the Ministries of Health across the region to embark on programmes which target Primary Schools, PTAs but also physicians.

“Some physicians with whom I have spoken most certainly embrace exercise and sound food choices but are not necessarily trained in nutrition or exercise therapy.  They are medical doctors and some do have specific training while others do not but are aware of the nexus between diet, exercise and longevity.  Indeed many physicians openly advise that lifestyle changes are critical to fighting illnesses. This too is where dieticians and people like me can assist and we can collaborate (with doctors) and promote healthy lifestyles,” he added.

Forte said that physician referrals to people qualified in his area (registered dieticians, medical nutritionists and specialists in nutrition and exercise therapists) was a step in the right direction.

“Clients can use nutrition and exercise to combat illness while reducing reliance on medication (where medically approved)”, he added.

Forte currently runs a clinic in Barbados where he offers customized diet and personal training periodized plans alongside exercise therapy for patients all over the region with all illnesses from cancers to acquired brain injury, diabetes and hypertension and many other illnesses in between.

“Quite frankly, many of the diseases that we face today are based on poor food choices and lack of exercise (except the disease is congenital in nature) and many illnesses are based on inflammatory conditions.  Certain foods and toxins promote inflammation in the body which exacerbate various illnesses. We need to eat a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables, bright red and orange fruit and vegetables, whole grains, peas, beans and lentils.  I advise those with blood thickening disorders or on warfarin and blood thinners to avoid dark green vegetables”, he continued. According to the specialist, his team carries out full PARQ tests and consultations and works with babies as well as adults and the elderly.

Quick fix diets can be fatal

Forte said he experimented with diet change on himself even though he did not need to lose weight.

“The media has people obsessed with body composition or how we look but it is what is going on inside our bodies that matters…quick fix diets like HCG, low fat, no fat, lose 30 lbs in 30 days just do not work and can be fatal. Obesity is a major problem in the region, it is an epidemic and the complications are numerous. I decided to change my diet (I have diabetes and hypertension in my family history) to include water-based plant foods and dark green vegetables and whole grains, I limited my red meat intake and got my protein from other meat and fish sources and incorporated a lot of curries, cumin,  cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and freshly squeezed juices that are found in Asian and Indian diets. When I incorporated 90 minutes or more of exercise, I lost 16 pounds easily and comfortably”, he said. “I have not felt better and my blood work shows no signs of disease. It would be great if we could get everybody on board to understand that nutrient dense foods, alongside exercise are the keys to being disease free while looking and feeling great”.

He indicated that while years ago many physicians were concerned with treating diseases with medication alone, many are now incorporating moderate to drastic diet change recommendations, smoking cessation and exercise as part of a regimen that patients should follow for better health.

“It may be controversial to say but I do believe that many (not all) diseases are reversible with good nutrition and exercise and I have never seen a fat centenarian,” He said.

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