UCI School of Medicine's culinary class gives doctors practical skills to help patients live healthier lives

Friday, January 25, 2019

IRVINE (KABC) -- A unique class at UCI School of Medicine called Culinary Medicine hopes to give doctors practical skills so they can help their patients live healthier lives.

The class is taught at the direction of Dr. David Kilgore, dietitian Kim Storm and Chef Jessica VanRoo.

The idea is to integrate nutrition into the students' medical practice as a tool to treat chronic conditions.

"About 80 percent of chronic illness is either prevented or controlled and mitigated by healthy lifestyle. What we eat and how we cook profoundly affects our health and wellness but especially in terms of prevention of chronic disease," said Kilgore, the head of the Culinary Medicine program.

Kilgore says one in three Americans have diabetes or are pre-diabetic, and almost 40 percent are obese. One out every two adults has high blood pressure.

For the last three years, UC Irvine has offered this elective to medical students. It's a course that's adapted from the Tulane School of Medicine.

The principles of nutrition can actually be quite complex, but the school wants its students to learn the four main principles of an anti-inflammatory diet.

These are the four main principles according to Storm:

1. Eat more colorful food.

2. Eat healthy fats because that dramatically impacts how your body responds to inflammation.

3. Eat more whole grains, beans, lentils and more plant-based foods.

4. Add in herbs and spices

As along with taste, spices like oregano and turmeric offer anti-inflammatory compounds.

At the end of each cooking class, the medical students eat and discuss their current patients' conditions and how integrating these foods and recipes might help heal.

This resonates with second-year medical student Sean Thompson.

"I eat the same ingredients that you do, you know, we're all just people. I'm right there with you. We all need to eat healthier," said Thompson.

With such alarming health statistics, Kilgore is passionate about teaching this course to young doctors.

"Medical school is exactly the right place to teach this. This is powerful 21st century medicine," said Kilgore.