‘By choosing our foods carefully, we can have a lot more control than we have ever had over how well we age, how we resist illness, and the number of years we are able to live an active life.’ This is a central premise to this tie- in book to Channel 4’s The Food Hospital.
The authors are realistic enough to accept nutrition is ‘a relatively new science and we don’t understand everything about how the human body uses food.’ They also point out, ‘There are no shortcuts when it comes to healthy eating.’
Compared with the TV series on which it is based the book probably has less impact. We don’t have the human interest case studies. These brought the TV series to life as we witnessed individuals with a variety of medical conditions achieving significant improvements by changing their diet. Instead the book contains a large number of ‘healthy’ recipes - colourful and practical, no doubt, but less dramatic and engaging.
However, this is more than just a recipe book. The Food Hospital provides material on more than seventy medical conditions, from anaemia, arthritis and asthma to stomach ulcers, sinusitis and stroke. For each condition there is usually information on ‘The Science’ which briefly explains the cause of the condition, how it is typically treated and the potential role of nutrition. The authors say it is based on published studies, although it would probably have been helpful to have some indication of what these studies were, to help judge how robust they are.
Each section then goes on to explore what foods to eat for the condition, what foods to avoid, expert tips and possible health warnings (plus usually a relevant recipe). For example the section on the menopause explains in the Science section how this is due to irregular hormone patterns; advises the following as foods to eat: soya, calcium rich foods, phytoestrogens , whole grains, foods containing omega 3 oils, vitamin E –rich foods and plenty of fruit and vegetables; advises the following as foods to avoid: spicy foods, caffeine and alcohol, sugary refined foods, fizzy drinks and foods with high levels of saturated fat; Expert tips include breathing exercises, regular exercise, getting a good night’s sleep, achieving a balanced weight and wearing layers to control your temperature more easily; and the health warning explains when to see your doctor.
The Food Hospital is divided into chapters headed Gut Feeling; On The Outside; Mind Matters; Just for the Girls; Eat Yourself Better; and When Things Get Serious.
Although the recipes mean this book is rather long, it is very easy to navigate, allowing you to home in on the condition you are interested in and possible ways nutrition can help, alongside conventional medicine. Typically the nutritional advice correlates with and adds to the advice we provide here on Age Watch. Whilst there will sometimes be debate as to how much weight to give to nutrition as a means of treating medical conditions, following the book’s recommendations appears unlikely to harm and may well help.
The authors incidentally bring three different areas of expertise. Gio Miletto is a GP, Shaw Somers is a consultant surgeon, specialising in upper gastro-intestinal and bariatric (weight-loss) surgery and Lucy Jones is a senior specialist registered dietitian.
The Food Hospital – Dr Gio Miletto, Lucy Jones and Dr Shaw Somers (Michael Joseph - the Penguin Group 2011) 978 0 718 – 15859 - 0