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Culinary Medicine - Doctor's Orders

22nd Apr 2020 - 11:01
Dr Rupy Aujla with medical students and Westminster Kingsway College students
Doctors in the UK get almost no nutritional training, but a new idea called ‘culinary medicine’ has been launched to help them better understand food and diet, reports David Foad.

Westminster Kingsway College is at the heart of a new partnership between the culinary industry and healthcare professionals that aims to transform the health of thousands of people every year.

Launched in February, the programme is called Culinary Medicine, a partnership with non-profit organisation Culinary Medicine UK.

It teaches doctors and medical students the foundations of nutrition in the context of a patient’s case history, as well as how to cook.

The programme has been running for the past two years and, following a small scale pilot with Bristol University students, has trained over 400 medical students of the UCL Medical School in London.

Dr Rupy Aujla with his culinary medicine team
Dr Rupy Aujla with his culinary medicine team

According to Dr Sophie Park, director of medical education at UCL Medical School, the programme is hugely useful.

“The students, who are in the fifth year of their studies, have overwhelmingly enjoyed and valued the course, and Culinary Medicine UK hopes to get more teaching hospitals and universities on board in the near future.”

The idea is the brainchild of Dr Rupy Aujla, an NHS GP and the founder of Culinary Medicine UK, who has long been an advocate of better nutrition and its impact on health and worked with Dr Timothy Harlan at Tulane University in New Orleans, whose culinary medicine programme started in 2012.

He said: “By educating medical professionals in this way, clinicians gain a much greater understanding of the vital role that nutrition plays in general health, as well as enabling them to speak to their patients about changes they can make to their diet based on their medical condition – be that obesity, gut health, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.”

Westminster Kingsway College provides culinary expertise to the programme, as well as the kitchen facilities that are essential to provide meaningful training to the course’s participants.

Chef Lecturer Vince Kelly tutors the course’s students – many of whom have no previous cooking or nutrition experience – in cooking skills, and works with a dietitian and nutritionist on modules covering weight management and portion control, protein and veg diets, and fats.

Gary Hunter, deputy principal of Westminster Kingsway College said: “We are delighted to have been the first UK Culinary Medicine Academy and work with the culinary medicine programme for the last two years.

“It has been an inspiration to work with Dr Rupy Aujla and his team to deliver such a unique programme of education and inspiration to the next generation of GPs, doctors and chefs.”

The college’s involvement in the programme began when Professor David Foskett, the internationally-renowned hospitality educator and author, connected it with Dr Rupy.

Dr Rupy said: “The UK has been exceptionally slow to adopt this idea. So I decided to use some of the materials from the USA, bring it to the UK and introduce it into a programme with the help of Gary Hunter from the college and Professor Foskett.

“The programme brings different disciplines together, such as professional chefs, dieticians, and registered nutritionists, and when you get this incredible mixture of specialists, incredible things can happen.

“I really hope to see culinary medicine becoming the standard across all medical schools.”

Elaine Macaninch, a registered clinical dietician in the NHS who also for Culinary Medicine UK, added: “As health professionals we have an enormous influence over the health of our nation, but research is telling us that, within everyday practice, there are hardly any conversations about food.

“That’s a real missed opportunity. For example, diabetes, blood pressure, gut health and general health, there’s so much opportunity for good nutrition to support people’s health and for doctors to have the confidence to have conversations about food with their patients in a way that is sensitive to their background, their culture and their medical condition.”

What is culinary medicine?

Culinary Medicine is a combination of nutrition and culinary knowledge to assist doctors learn the foundations of clinical nutrition as well as how best to motivate their patients to lead healthier lives using food.

This course is RCGP (Royal College of GPs) accredited and designed to give participants a foundation in clinical nutrition and practical cooking skills. Currently, the course is divided into modules which cover topics such as fats, carbohydrates, vegetarian diets and obesity.

Each module is structured into four parts: Online preview, reading relevant clinical papers ahead of time, a cooking class led by a dietitian, chef and doctor, and a discussion of a clinical case and the recipes they have made.

Find out more

Written by
Rebecca Saunders