Study reminds physicians that the option of prescribing medical food should be considered
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the U.S., says chronic illness affects nearly half of all adults and contributes to seven out of 10 deaths. Even more alarming, chronic illness costs Americans more than $1.5 trillion annually in direct medical costs. It is for these reasons researchers and others in the medical profession believe that re-focusing medical practice treatments on the provision of lifestyle therapy will not only significantly improve the health status of most people, but will reduce costs.
The efficacy of lifestyle intervention in reducing the incidence of type 2 diabetes has been established by the Diabetes Prevention Program and other studies. Recently researchers at the University of Florida announced that a program consisting of a breakthrough medical food combined with a low-glycemic, Mediterranean-style diet is almost twice as effective as one of the best diets alone for lowering risk factors for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The results of the multicenter trial have been published in the May/June issue of the Journal of Clinical Lipidology, a publication of the National Lipid Association. The study was sponsored by Metagenics Inc.
As more countries adopt Western dietary habits and sedentary lifestyles, the number of chronic illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, arthritis and autoimmune diseases has increased. Citing the findings of the multicenter research, Metagenics claims its medical food UltraMeal PLUS 360° is 40 percent more likely to resolve metabolic syndrome.
The company’s press release says researchers believe that patients who incorporate the medical food into their diets as well as make necessary lifestyle changes can improve their health faster than by using a Mediterranean diet alone.
Medical foods are foods that are specially formulated and intended for the dietary management of a disease that has distinctive nutritional needs that cannot be met by normal diet alone. They were defined in the Food and Drug Administration’s 1988 Orphan Drug Act Amendments and are subject to the general food and safety labeling requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. Medical foods are distinct from the broader category of foods for special dietary use and from traditional foods that bear a health claim.
The Mediterranean diet is a pattern marked by daily consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grain cereals, and low-fat dairy products; weekly consumption of fish, poultry, tree nuts, and legumes; high consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids, primarily from olives and olive oils; and a moderate daily consumption of wine or other alcoholic beverages, normally with meals. Red meat intake and processed foods are kept to a minimum. For these reasons, this diet has been known for long to reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome − increasingly common in the United States − occurs if someone has three or more of the following five conditions: blood pressure equal to or higher than 130/85, fasting blood glucose equal to or higher than 100 mg/dl, a waist measuring 35 inches or more in women and 40 inches or more in men, a HDL (“good”) cholesterol under 40 in men and under 50 in women, triglycerides equal to or higher than 150 mg/dl.
The multicenter trial’s requirements were based on standards set forth in the National Cholesterol Education Program Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults – Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEP-ATPIII) criteria. Participants with heart, liver or kidney disease or who were using blood sugar or cholesterol-lowering agents were excluded. Those with type 2 diabetes were not excluded.
The clinical trial, which was conducted at three universities − University of Connecticut at Storrs, University of Florida at Jacksonville, and University of California at Irvine − consisted of 89 women between the ages of 20 and 75. To be eligible for the study, the candidates had to have a LDL-C (low-density–lipoprotein cholesterol) of more than 2.59 mmol/l (100 mg/dl), TG (triglycerides) equal to or greater than 1.70 mmol/l (150 mg/dl), and meet two of the four remaining criteria for metabolic syndrome.
“Chronic illness is draining our healthcare resources and keeping millions of people from enjoying healthy, vibrant lives. Many of these illnesses are the result of long-term lifestyle and behavior choices,” said Robert H. Lerman, MD, PhD, director of medicine and extramural clinical research for Metagenics Inc. “This study is important because it shows how effective UltraMeal PLUS 360°is in resolving metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular risk factors in affected individuals, and identifies a powerful new approach to combating chronic illness.”
“Preventing chronic illness is far more effective from both a cost and treatment perspective than treating the illness once it develops,” said Lerman. “Physicians have evidence-based research that now enables them to actually use lifestyle therapy in their patients to help them avoid chronic illness by treating the cause, not just the symptoms of these conditions.”
“It’s very important for physicians to learn about these new findings. Doctors have not been trained to take a therapeutic lifestyle approach with patients who have metabolic syndrome,” said Mark S. McIntosh, MD, one of the principal researchers who is the Director of Corporate Wellness and Assistant Professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Florida – Jacksonville. “Programs like Metagenics’ FirstLine Therapy are needed to provide the tools and support for physicians to change the way they practice and to help patients make real lifestyle changes.”
Both doctors believe that this research underscores the importance of the science of how nutrition impacts genetic expression and its potential to improve health and avoid chronic illness. “Patients who incorporate the medical food along with lifestyle therapy get healthier quickly and safely,” Lerman said.
“Most physicians are accustomed to prescribing drugs for people with lifestyle-related conditions, even though the first line recommended course of treatment is lifestyle therapy,” said Dr. Wayne S. Dysinger, current president of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California.
“This study reminds physicians that the option of prescribing food, in this case a medical food, should be considered. It demonstrates the ability of medical foods to reduce risk factors and improve health. The study results are a valuable addition to research on the impact of nutrition on health,” Dysinger added.
In addition to Dr. McIntosh, the other two principal researchers are Maria Luz Fernandez, PhD, Professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Connecticut, Storrs and Wadie I. Najm, MD, Clinical Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of California, Irvine.
Note: This post is for information only. Trade, proprietary, or company names appearing in this article have been used only in the context of the information provided by Metagenics Inc. I do not endorse the products mentioned in the report.