In our most recent Manna Tree Partners webinar, on July 28th, we talked with panelists Dr. Marc Philippon, Orthopedic Surgeon and Managing Partner of The Steadman Clinic and Co-Chairman and Co-Director of Sports Medicine Fellowship at the Steadman Philippon Research Institute; Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, Cardiologist at Dean and Jean Mayer, Professor at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and Professor of Medicine at Tufts Medical School; and Dr. Johnny Huard, Chief Scientific Officer and Director at the Center for Regenerative Sports Medicine at the Steadman Philippon Research Institute. The discussion focused on regenerative medicine, how diet and health outcomes are directly linked, and how your actual age is directly associated with nutrition and activity.
Defining Regenerative Medicine
Dr. Phillipon defined regenerative medicine as the process of reviving human cells, tissues, or organs to restore or establish normal function. The primary focus is on regenerating damaged tissues and organs in the body by stimulating the body’s own repair mechanisms to heal.
Regenerative medicine also may enable scientists to grow tissues and organs in the laboratory and safely implant them when the body is unable to heal itself. With new technology and the combination of different disciplines, regenerative medicine is becoming considerably more accessible, especially now that it is possible to harvest stem cells from bone marrow, fat, and muscles.
Philippon explained that Mother Nature is our best ally and can provide better outcomes in healing, and a healthy person starts with their nutrition. Nutrition is so vital to a body’s foundation of skin, muscle, bones, and arteries that Philippon explained how he could tell during surgery whether someone has good nutritional habits. Muscle tissue, bones, and blood all reflect the habits of the individual. Nutrition is at the top of the list of what contributes to healing from an injury or surgery.
Nutrition Studies and THEIR Importance
The panel discussed how we’d recognized the importance of food for thousands of years, but modern studies of nutrition are still relatively young and did not start until 1932 when vitamin C was first synthesized.
Dr. Mozaffarian explained, “Modern nutrition science is less than 100 years old — which is why it’s rapidly changing. It is young, but we can learn a lot from traditional cultures and can test our “grandmother’s wisdom” with science. Furthermore, many issues people face are not single issues — they are systemic.”
Mozaffarian also explained that as he did his training, he recognized how food is the single most crucial factor in one’s health. “Food and nutrition is the most important thing you can do for your health, and its effects are quick,” Mozaffarian said. “Food shouldn’t be an afterthought, and in six to eight weeks, you can get healthier if you improve your food choices.”
The panelists pointed out that 28% of the U.S. budget is allocated to healthcare, so it is crucial to start using those resources for educating the public on healthy eating and building trust around that message. Because nutrition is still a young science, there seems to be no trusted voice for nutrition, and people are confused by the information offered in the news and social media.
“We have a national need to bring together businesses, government, advocacy, and science to offer real solutions and provide more education to the public about the importance of nutrition on health, healing, and aging.”
Mozaffarian further explained that lifestyle and environment are two of the most critical factors contributing to your health — even more so than genes — and the little choices people make every day affect their health. Every small food decision adds up to either support or detract from your health and vitality.
Top Causes and Effects of the Obesity Epidemic
An excellent example of how food and health are directly correlated to each other can be seen with the obesity epidemic in the U.S.
Mozaffarian explained that obesity could also be seen as a “slow pandemic,” and it only seems to be speeding up, which is a big concern for the medical community.
Some of the top drivers of obesity are the commercialization and processing of starchy and sugary foods. Also, differences in food preferences and cooking, moving away from farms, and depending more on processed foods, change the microbiome. These lead to changes in food consumption and present a challenge for people because there is a general lack of information or propagated misinformation on nutrition.
Mozaffarian pointed out, “Studying these drivers is what we should be spending time and money on, but it’s currently ignored and further contributes to the growing pandemic of obesity and diabetes.”
One factor that creates confusion is how calories are considered in a person’s diet. While they are counted the same and represented the same on nutrition panels, calories are (most definitely) not created equally. More so, bodies need some calories more than others. Food is complicated, and the body responds to different kinds of foods in different ways. For example, yogurt is not milk, and milk is not cheese. Yogurt has probiotics, and certain fermented dairy foods have vitamin K. The complexity of nutrition is just now being understood. It is a lot more complicated than just “calorie” or “dairy” categorizations.
In the same way, just because someone identifies as a vegetarian does not mean they are eating well. French fries and Oreos are vegetarian! There can be bad vegetarian habits as much as there can be good habits with those who eat high-quality proteins and meat, such as within a flexitarian diet.
To repair the confusion, it is essential to address policies, healthcare, and business innovation to create more systemic changes. We cannot just ask individuals to change — understanding the benefits of proper nutrition is more significant than the individual.
Dr. Huard reinforced the importance of regenerative nutrition and healthy aging, explaining that nutrition and exercise are 50% of the game. Some aging elements are natural but can be slowed through diet or new strategies that can help slow senescent cells. For example, certain supplements and nutrition can reduce inflammation and avoid problems like osteoporosis.Intermittent fasting can also be beneficial for some.
In many cases, ailments and diseases associated with aging are more than likely caused by poor lifestyle choices than with the process of aging in itself.
50% of the U.S. population has diabetes, pre-diabetes, or cardiovascular disease;
75% of the population is obese.
Huard explained, “Only 12% of people over 18 are metabolically healthy — we’ve never been in this place in history — and it is because of accumulated lifestyle. Aging isn’t normal. Knee pain, arthritis, osteoporosis — these all can be prevented.”
Huard further explained that people do not have to accept aging as-is. Education about longevity and health long term is necessary to help a more substantial percentage of the population understand that aging can be graceful and active. The aches and pains are not a foregone conclusion. Ending reliance on pills to heal and instead starting with diet and activity can repair so many age-related challenges. It’s not a fringe or “hippy” idea anymore. The proof is already here, but it’s not well understood…yet.
Combining modern medicine, a better understanding of nutrition, and an individual’s responsibility to make healthier choices can increase the quality of life and longevity, without the ailments that are usually attached to aging. Everyone should examine their diets and the amount of activity they participate in every day. We can heal our population faster, for less money, by focusing on food and then augmenting our health with physical activity and modern science.