Food as Medicine

Thursday, 10 January 2013

From 1900 to 2100

Medico-Chirurgical Hall

Dr Alexandra Johnstone, Academic Nutritionist, Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen


The Society met on 10th January 2013 in the Society Hall, Foresterhill

The President, Dr Ken McHardy presided.

The President reminded members of the forthcoming Burns' night, to be held in conjunction with the student society, the Medical Society.

He then introduced the speaker, Dr Alexandra Johnstone from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, now a part of the University of Aberdeen. Her talk was entitled Food as Medicine.

Dr Johnstone told the meeting that her expertise was appetite control. She started with a brief historical review, first of all of human diet which moved from plant eating to meat eating to the modern 'big mac' eating and then of the Rowett which started 100 years ago looking at undernourishment but is now largely dealing with the diseases of overnutrition.

45% of people will die of cardiovascular disease and 23% of cancer, much of which is diet related. It had been thought that food only provided nourishment but it actually makes a big difference to mental an physical health.

One of Dr Johnstone's current areas of research is food addiction. Various foods can be addictive such as chocolate and cheese but her main interest is stress and its effect on eating. Some people overeat if stressed but some are stress resistant and she has been comparing groups working is stressful jobs such as firemen and ambulance crews who also may have limited time for eating.

She ten spoke about so called superfoods such as garlic (used as a performance enhancer if ancient Olympics), cocoa (which does have flavanoids, at least before processing), tomatoes (lot of lycopene), blueberries (flavanoids but large quantities needed), red wine (1-2 units probably have a beneficial effect which is lost with larger quantities), vinegar and cranberries. None of these have much real evidence in their favour. Specific Scottish 'superfoods' may include oats and specially fed fish.

Returning to appetite, she spoke about eating as a form of behaviour and about hunger, satisfaction and satiety. High protein diets increase satiety and thus aid weight loss, partially through slow progress through the gut and via increased release of gut hormones. She works with the food company Marks and Spencer and has helped them develop a range of "simply fuller longer' foods which have been proved to aid weight loss.

Another of her research projects is "Satin" - satiety innovation which aims to produce satiety enhancers.

Alternative protein sources include FAVA beans, Quinola and green pea isolates, lupin beans and flava beans. Utilising these may also limit the production of greenhouse gasses since cows produce a lot of methane.

During a lengthy period of questions, Dr Johnstone made a plea for greater public health messages regarding obesity and calorie control.

The President proposed the vote of thanks mentioning her comprehensive talk which showed the excellent work being done at the Rowett.

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