Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition: Day 1

Well I have successfully completed the first day of my six week eCornell course in Plant-Based Nutrition, including the continuing medical education (CME) pre-test and lecture number 1. I have posted my first comment on the discussion boards and am waiting eagerly for replies!

There are about 30 students in each cohort, and we are all busily introducing ourselves to each other. My group includes people from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Java. Oh, and me, from the UK, of course! So far there are two physical therapists, one family practitioner, one retired physician, one grandmother, one patient advocate, one cancer exercise specialist, one certified health coach and two chefs. There are a number of people who  have had personal health issues (excess weight, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, chronic pain, autoimmune diseases) that they have used or are using plant-based nutrition to tackle. Many have referred to relatives suffering from diet-related chronic diseases. Many, but not all, are currently eating a plant-based, vegetarian or vegan diet.

The first lecture described the current state of health and disease in the US in terms of the burden of ill health and costs of medical care. By way of an introduction, we were asked to reflect on and share our personal experiences of how this situation (which is not dissimilar here in the UK) has affected us as individuals and also has impacted on our friends and families. Because of their prevalence, I doubt there is anyone who has not lost someone in their immediate circle to at least one of the many diet-related conditions. Dr T. Colin Campbell estimated in his introductory lecture that approximately between half a million and one million deaths per year in the US could be prevented if proper nutrition was not ignored (as it is now) by the medical system and society at large. He invited us to consider the various biases present in the research system that prevent good nutritional science from being done, and also to consider how the information we do have so far could be made more widely available.

Several people commented on the current state of confusion and misinformation present in society as regards nutrition, and expressed a desire to become more conversant with the evidence that is in existence – the various issues and arguments – as well as more effective in communicating nutritional health messages and more able to inspire others to make changes in their lives. I share those aspirations, and also agree with those who commented that if you want to talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. Looking forward to module 2!

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