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 Plant-based diets

I have been working in the NHS for the last 20 years, first in general medicine and now as a haematologist. I discovered the impact of diet and lifestyle on disease prevention and treatment late in my career. Six years ago, for personal reasons, I started to delve into the data on diet and health and I was truly shocked to learn about the power of nutrition. To learn that dietary risk factors are the top cause of death and disability in the UK and to not be talking to my patients about this somehow seemed wrong. Even though I manage patient with lymphoma, they commonly have other lifestyle-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and overweight/obesity, that impact my ability to deliver cancer treatments and ultimately impact on their outcome.

 

Having educated myself on the science behind healthy diet and nutrition and the overwhelming data supporting predominately plant-based diets for optimal human and planetary health, I found an organisation called plant-based health professionals UK, whose mission is to provide evidence-based education on whole food plant-based nutrition for health professionals and the general public and ultimately to policy makers. We run CPD accredited conferences and events including a recent international conference. We are building a network of like-minded individuals who are all passionate about using plant-based diets in clinical practice. We have partnered with Winchester University where we have developed a 6 week online course on plant-based diets aimed at qualified health professionals but also suitable for students. This course is now recommended by the Royal College of GPs as part of their Green Impact Initiative in recognition of the co-benefits of plant-based diets for human and planetary health. I also had the honour of presenting at a recent All Party Parliamentary Group meeting on plant-based diets.

 

I am hugely supportive of Nutritank and its work to highlight the need for nutrition education in the medical curriculum. I feel hopeful that the Doctor of the future will use diet and lifestyle as the primary approach to promoting health and preventing illness rather than the current paradigm of ‘pills and procedures’. The science on diet and health is clear, despite the intentional confusion in the media. A diet focussing on whole plant foods, whether 100% of not, whilst minimizing animal-derived and processed foods, is consistently associated with the best health outcomes.

 

You can read more about our work here and the evidence supporting plant-based diets here. We also have a free event for students on April 29th in London. So please come and meet the team.

Shireen Kassam

Shireen Kassam

Dr Shireen Kassam is a Consultant Haematologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer at King’s College Hospital, London with a specialist interest in the treatment of lymphoma. She is also a Visiting-Professor at Winchester University, Hampshire, where she has developed and facilitates the UK's first University-based course on plant-based nutrition for health professionals. Shireen is passionate about promoting plant-based nutrition for the prevention and reversal of chronic disease and for maintaining optimal health after treatment for cancer. She discovered the power of nutrition in 2013 and since then has been following a whole food plant-based diet. She has immersed herself in the science of nutrition and health, completing the eCornell certification in plant-based nutrition and in 2019 she became certified as a Lifestyle Medicine Physician by the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine. Shireen founded Plant-Based Health Professionals UK in 2017. This is a non-profit, membership organisation whose mission is to provide evidence-based education on whole food plant-based nutrition for the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. Shireen qualified as a medical doctor in 2000, initially training in general medicine and then specialising in Haematology. During her training, she took time out to complete a PhD (University of London, 2011). Her research investigated the role of selenium, an essential micronutrient, in sensitising cancer cells to chemotherapy. She was able to show that supra-nutritional doses of selenium could enhance the action of chemotherapy in the laboratory. Shireen has published a number of peer-reviewed papers in the field of lymphoma.

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