Angels in the kitchen: Medically tailored food for congestive heart failure

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A pilot study in California is trying to prove that you are, indeed, what you eat. It's providing meals that are medically tailored for 1,000 people with congestive heart failure to keep them healthy and out of the hospital and to save health care dollars.

Congestive heart failure made Diane Henry feel like she was drowning.

"There was a time I thought this was it. I didn't have any plans. It's just – I thought it was over for me," she said.

Then, eight months ago, she got into California's pilot study to see if diets tailored to patients with heart failure would keep them out of hospitals. That means very little salt.

"We provide them with meals that are perfectly balanced, and the entire days' worth of meals total 2 grams of salt," Project Angel Food Executive Director Richard Ayoub said.

Project Angel Food has made and delivered medically tailored meals to patients with chronic illnesses for 30 years.

"We are, indeed, seeing dramatic results," Ayoub said. "We're bringing down the numbers of readmissions into the hospital."

In fact, Project Angel Food says only 10% of clients in the pilot are readmitted to hospitals within 30 days, compared to 32% of all Medicaid patients with congestive heart failure.

"If it's made for you and delivered to your home and you're not having to go out to the grocery store or to a fast food place where you might buy something high in salt, this makes it easy to eat a healthier diet," Dr. Richard Seidman said.

Henry believes this is making her better.

"I feel like I'm getting the old Diane," she said. "She's coming back, but back with a vengeance, and a healthier Diane."

The state of California put up $6 million for the study, which will last three years.

Getting rid of salt may be harder than you think. You might be buying products with more salt than you realize. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has found that 60% of raw meat and poultry items are injected with or soaked in salty solutions.

To avoid the meat products with added salt, stay away from the ones with labels such as marinated or enhanced.

RESEARCH SUMMARY
ANGELS IN THE KITCHEN REPORT #2695

BACKGROUND: Research shows that dietary habits influence disease risk. While certain foods trigger chronic health conditions, others offer strong medicinal and protective qualities. However, diet alone should not replace medicine in most circumstances. Many illnesses can be prevented, treated, or even cured by dietary and lifestyle changes, many others cannot. Eating whole, nutritious foods is important because their unique substances work together to create an effect that can't be replicated by taking a supplement. Although your body only needs small amounts of vitamins and minerals, they're vital for your health. Insufficient intakes of vitamin C, vitamin D, and folate may harm your heart, cause immune dysfunction, and increase your risk of certain cancers. Nutritious foods, including vegetables, fruits, beans, and grains, boast numerous beneficial compounds, such as antioxidants which protect cells from damage that may otherwise lead to disease. Fiber is also an essential part of a healthy diet. It not only promotes proper digestion and elimination but also feeds the beneficial bacteria in your gut. (Source: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/food-as-medicine#nourishment)

HEART-HEALTHY FOODS: "You can reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by eating certain foods every day," says preventive cardiology dietitian Julia Zumpano, RD, LD. "There is a great variety of fruits and vegetables that are good for your heart." She recommends eating foods that are in their natural form, coming from the ground, as in a whole-foods diet. That includes foods such as nuts, fish, whole grains, olive oil, vegetables and fruits. Zumpano says don't be afraid to treat yourself occasionally to a glass of red wine or a piece of dark chocolate. She suggests using this list as a guide to create meals and snacks with a healthy focus which could make a big difference in cardiovascular health. Some foods to consider are salmon, tuna, herring or trout; nuts such as almonds or walnuts; blueberries, strawberries and blackberries are full of phytonutrients and soluble fiber. Flaxseed and chia seeds provide omega 3, fiber and protein. Oats can top off yogurt or salads. Beans like garbanzo, pinto, kidney or black beans, are high in fiber, B-vitamins and minerals. Veggies bright in color like carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers and tomatoes are packed with carotenoids and vitamins. Fruits such as oranges, cantaloupes and papaya are rich in beta-carotene, potassium, magnesium and fiber. (Source: https://health.clevelandclinic.org/12-heart-healthy-foods-to-work-into-your-diet/)

FOOD AS MEDICINE'S NEXT BIG THING: Joanna Hunter, RDN, owner of Vita Nutrition Services in New Jersey believes nutrigenomics, "you are what you eat", is the next big thing. We're in exciting times in terms of technological and healthcare advancements and as scientists and researchers learn more about genetic make-up and how food effects our DNA, advancements have been made in the relatively new field of nutrigenomics. Researchers believe there is a possibility we will be able to "eat for our genes". Breakthroughs in this field would allow dietitians to cater their meal plans to specific individual genetic expressions. This could possibly impact not only the everyday health of an individual, but also help ward off disease linked to family history like certain cancers, diabetes and obesity. Instead of healthcare professionals giving more recommendations like eat more vegetables, they would be able to say exactly what types of foods each person would need to eat to thrive. (Source: https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/nutritional-breakthroughs/)