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Dr. Weil comes to Calgary! MRU Lecture Series on Nutrition, Part 1

Posted Sep 22 2011 11:00am
For a nutrition nerd like me, the Mount Royal University's Integrative Health Institute 's Body of Knowledge Lecture Series was a very exciting event! The "headliner", if you will, was none other than nutrition rockstar -  Dr. Andrew Weil  (pronounced "while", not "wheel" as I have said for years!). Dr. Weil is part nutrition guru, part celebrity.

(Excuse the blurry photo - stage lights + iPhone do not make for a clear shot)

Dr. Weil combines an education in Western medicine from Harvard, with years of research and experience in alternative and complementary medicine into a fresh, somewhat unconventional view of health care, nutrition and medicine.

Tuesday evening was the kick off of the lectures with Dr. Weil's presentation on "Why Our Health Matters". Well, that seems like a no-brainer. I think a better title for the talk may have been something like "How we screwed up the health care system and what to do about it".

Weil started by discussing the state of the health care system in both Canada and the U.S. He referred to our health care system as not really a "health care" system at all, but rather a "disease management system". The money, he argues, is in treatment, not prevention - and there lies a huge part of the problem. The cost of health care is climbing which threatens our economic health. The cost to our health care system, Weil says, is largely due to its' structure, particularly
1) The focus of modern medicine lies with treating illness once it's present, suppressing symptoms, rather than restoring balance. Many of the diseases we're treating are lifestyle-related, and largely preventable.

2) Our methods of treatment are high-tech (including pharmaceuticals) and, although low-tech treatments exist, today's MD's aren't trained in these.

So what to do? Dr. Weil argues that good medicine should begin with promoting our bodies' own healing power and enhancing this. By switching the focus to prevention, we can save major $$ in treatment down the road. Unfortunately, prevention doesn't pay and it's not where we put our money. Lastly, although the government promotes health initiatives, it also hinders progress by subsidizing crops that make unhealthy, processed foods more cheap and available. Wouldn't it be interesting to see what happens if fruits and vegetables were subsidized? Would the population eat better, if healthy choices were cheaper and more readily available, and fast food and junk food was expensive and difficult to find?

Here in Alberta, I know there are some initiatives that are tackling prevention - primarily obesity prevention in schools and adults. Will it make a difference? How long will it take to see a positive effect? We don't know, but it's certainly shifting the focus to the root of the problem and being proactive is always better than reactive.

Stay tuned for part 2, where I'll cover Dr. Weil's take food and nutrition, Q & A's, and his personal regimen.

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