The State of Nutrition by Dr. Mark Menolascino


By Dr. Mark Menolascino MD, MS, ABIHM, ABAARM, IFMCP

March is National Nutrition Month which brings to mind an important topic regarding the lack of nutrition expertise in the United States. Smart food decisions are key to a healthy lifestyle, but with nutrition hardly touched upon in our nation’s medical schools, physicians begin their careers with very little nutrition training. Thanks to thought leaders such as Dr. Andrew Weil of the University of Arizona, a movement is underway to incorporate nutrition into a more integrative and functional medicine curriculum. The hope is that instead of prescribing pills as cure-alls, a new generation of physicians will learn to empower their patients with information to change their behaviors and start making healthy food and lifestyle choices.

At the Institute of Functional Medicine annual conference last May, bestselling nutrition author Michael Pollan (author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma) made several comments about the quality of food and the nutritional experience we provide to our children. Many children have grown up on fast food and, as a result, don’t know how to cook. He recommended we reinstitute classes wherein students of both sexes can learn about nutrition and meal preparation. Our first lady, Michelle Obama, has also made efforts to change the food we serve in schools. However, because children are raised on sugary and high starch processed foods, the program has struggled to convince children to switch to more wholesome foods.

It seems as though everywhere I turn I see kids and adults with food sensitivities and food intolerances. There is a common misconception that these are food allergies, but that is not what we’re talking about. These are food sensitivities as opposed to food allergies. This is not the same as the histamine-driven hives with full-blown allergic reactions we think of when people have a peanut allergy, for example. This is the sensitivity or food intolerance that can lead to fatigue, mood issues, ADD and ADHD, eczema and skin conditions, and can also become a precursor to autoimmune disease. This topic has been successfully explored in several books including Wheat Belly by William Davis and Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, both of which look at the indictment of the wheat molecule as becoming a precursor to many illnesses.

In the past, we thought of food as medicine. But now, we must consider food as information. You are not your genetic makeup alone—our future has very little to do with our nature and so much to do with our nurture. So even though our genes do have some determination in our health and our genetic destiny, it is what we do to our genes that most determine our fate. Activating good or bad genes can be determined by the foods that you eat and the information that those foods provide to your genes. This is a concept called epigenetics and it is at the foundation of personalized medicine delivered in a functional way. The real key here is to let food truly be nutrition and provide information that primes your genetic code to allow the body to have its innate ability to heal itself.

At the end of the day, we all want our families to have the nutrition they need to be healthy provided in a non-toxic manner. This doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but our current food supply lacks optimal nutrients and carries toxins. We need another way and targeted, high-quality supplements that have been tested for purity and effectiveness as the future of good health. Whole food-based nutritionals such as carotenoids make good sense and are part of the solution for optimal health. The antioxidant potential of carotenoids and the synergy they bring to nutrition is a win-win for all, delivering the nutrients you need, without the additives you don’t.