Health Report: Consumers can learn about nutrition as preventive medicine

At meal time, Americans should fill half of their plates with fruits and vegetables, according to the latest federal dietary guidelines.

But looking at the eating habits in the United States today, most people appear to need a major menu change. Research shows that as many as 87 percent of Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, widely regarded as the twin pillars of a nutritious diet. 

“Failing to consume the right balance of nutrients can lead to severe health consequences,” said Robert Bonakdar, M.D., who specializes in integrative medicine with Scripps Health. For example, nearly half of all Americans don’t get enough magnesium. Low magnesium has been linked to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, heart disease, migraines and colon cancer.

There are also widespread deficiencies in vitamins D and B12 and other important nutrients. Each one of these carries its own health risks.

Part of the solution lies with education. Not just public service announcements and the occasional news article, but rather a comprehensive understanding of how nutrition – good or bad – affects personal health. Towards that end, the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine will host its 13th annual Natural Supplements Conference in San Diego Jan. 27 to Jan. 31.

As part of this continuing medical education conference, consumers are invited to hear presentations by two internationally recognized leaders in integrative medicine, whose work has demonstrated how good nutritional choices can be the best preventive medicine.

Food as medicine public presentation on Jan. 28

Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., is the author of several National Geographic health and wellness books. She advocates for “nutritional sanity,” which can be equated to eating enough fresh produce. However, meal planning often is only the beginning of the conversation.

Many people have trouble getting enough nutrition, even when they eat well. Sometimes a health condition, or a medication, can reduce the ability to absorb certain nutrients. For example, patients taking protein pump inhibitors to reduce acid reflux, or metformin for type 2 diabetes, may be deficient in magnesium and vitamin B-12, respectively.

This highlights how nutritional needs are unique to each individual. At her Jan. 28 presentation, Dr. Low Dog will offer a number of strategies to help people navigate the often confusing world of nutritional supplements and find the right ones to meet their personal needs.

Stomach and brain public presentation on Jan. 29

Dr. Perlmutter is probably best known for his best-selling book “Grain Brain” and has recently introduced his latest best-seller, “Brain Maker,” which examines how diet affects our minds, particularly as we age. There’s a great deal of “cross talk” between stomach and brain, and new evidence suggests gut health is critical to brain health.

Dr. Perlmutter recommends controlling blood sugar, consuming an anti-inflammatory diet and nurturing gut bacteria with probiotics and prebiotics. These steps can support the gastrointestinal system and may help preserve a healthy mind.

At his Jan. 29 presentation, Dr. Perlmutter will explore the potent interplay between intestinal microbes and the brain, and how diet and lifestyle can help people preserve brain power later in life.

The presentations by Dr. Low Dog and Dr. Perlmutter are both open to the public and each will begin at 7:30 p.m. The events will be held at the Paradise Point Resort on Mission Bay, located at 1404 Vacation Road, San Diego 92109. Admission is $35 per person for each event.

For more information or to register for any of these events, call 858-652-5400, email, or visit

Team effort between patient and physician

Improving the nation’s nutrition profile requires a two-pronged approach. First, clinicians need to be more aware of common deficiencies and have plans to deal with them.

And second, it’s critically important that patients be their own advocates. Physicians simply cannot do it all alone. Patients need to take a little extra time to understand their nutritional needs – and to maintain an ongoing conversation with their doctors. By having an open, honest dialogue, physicians and patients can develop individualized plans that optimize proper nutrition and boost overall health.

For more information, visit or call 858-240-5075.

Categories: Health