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Nursing And Nutrition School Students Standing Up For Healthy Low-Carb Living

Posted Apr 06 2010 3:36pm

The medical and nutrition education systems in the United States are still wading knee deep in the muckity muck of conventional wisdom with what they are teaching tomorrow’s health care providers. We’re well into the 21st Century, but they’re still passing on decades-old information to these poor students as if it is revolutionary and new. The ones who suffer from such erroneous information are ultimately all the future patients that these doctors, nurses, and dietitians will later impact as they progress through their career. It’s sad to think that all we are learning about healthy high-fat, adequate protein, low-carbohydrate nutrition is being totally ignored by the institutions of higher learning in health.

But I do see a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s burning brightly with individuals who are forging ahead through the darkness of these current state of affairs by sharing openly about the principles they have learned about what truly constitutes healthy living. There are people out there right now in nursing school and pursuing a degree to become a registered dietitian who are being that beacon of hope that real change is coming in the medical profession. It won’t happen overnight, but the powerful impact these students and future leaders of their field will have cannot be underestimated. I hear from them all the time via e-mail and today I’d like to share with you a couple of these to encourage you that livin’ la vida low-carb is indeed alive and well and swelling up among the ranks of the next wave of servants getting into various areas of public health.

The first one is from a nursing student named Keith. He’s a BIG FAN of the healthy low-carb lifestyle and has been on and off this way of eating many times over his life as a “borderline diabetic.” He’s now writing down everything he eats to keep perfect track of his intake and has committed himself to livin’ la vida low-carb hook, line, and sinker. He shared with me a recent test he was taking on nutrition as part of his studies that had the following question:

What medical problem may occur in a person who is on a low-carbohydrate diet for a long period of time?

a) obesity
b) fatigue
c) ketosis
d) infection

It’s interesting they described the condition a “medical problem” for a low-carb dieter as if there is something wrong with long-term carbohydrate-restriction. Here’s what Keith said about the “right” answer and his willingness to challenge this assertion in front of the class:

The correct answer was of course “c) ketosis.” I questioned why she stated that ketosis was unhealthy. She kept bringing up “balance” and the MyPyramid stuff, but I stood firm and said that “unhealthy” ketosis may be the thing that saves the life of the obese and Type II diabetics. At that point, even she had to admit that ketosis does not mean ketoacidosis which is a deadly condition for Type I diabetics, but the ketone bodies are 25-30 times what they are in a Type II diabetic or nondiabetic person using stored fat as fuel instead of ingested carbohydrates.

He went on to say that he’s been able to personally win over many of his fellow classmates to the myth of the lipid-heart hypothesis and why low-carb living is such a powerful natural intervention instead. Keith noted they are all watching how he does on his own low-carb journey to “see if it really is true.”

Talk about pressure.

Yes, I’m sure it is, but I know you’re up to the task, Keith! Keep sharing what you know is the truth and don’t let the lies discourage you from spreading your passion to everyone you know. I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more from him in the future.

I thought you would like to know what future RNs are being told about the low carb way of life. Among the armies of the enemy, a few rebels like myself are fighting the good fight.

That I am sure of! Someone else who is fighting the good fight is a woman named Adele. She is currently in a combined Master’s/Registered Dietitian program after working for the past several years with the great low-carb researcher and clinician Dr. Eric Westman (co-author of The New Atkins For A New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight Fast and Feeling Great ) at the Duke Lifestyle Medicine Clinic in Durham, North Carolina.

Adele worked intently with Dr. Westman educating their patients about how to best implement healthy low-carb living into their daily lives. It was quite the mentorship for Adele and she’d be the first to tell you the experience working with Dr. Westman was an invaluable asset to her career. But last year she decided the time had come to take her health education to the next level and so she began taking these upper-level nutritional courses. And so far she says she’s “having a wonderful time.”

I thought I would really have to bite my tongue in half in class, but that has really turned out not to be the case. Because of the setting at a arge, research-oriented university graduate school, it is really considered poor form to just spout “conventional wisdom” because that’s what you’ve been taught. We have–for the most part–been challenged to really think about things and not just accept as fact what “everyone knows”–including, for better and worse, what “everyone knows” about low-carb diets.

Now that’s encouraging news and should make us all jump for joy that maybe, just maybe there is hope yet that the science behind low-carb diets is finally seeping its way into the curriculum for serious discussions about how it can be implemented in real people to help them with their various metabolic ailments. This is such a move in the right direction and I certainly hope it continues to be that way.

Adele noted that her classmates are “very intelligent and open-minded” about discussing any topic related to nutrition and health. However, she did recall one encounter by a registered dietitian who read her the riot act about having people eat low-carb.

I’ve only been lectured once, by a young lady who said “I AM an RD and I would never feed anyone a diet like [low-carb]!” I just responded, “That’s too bad, because I saw some really remarkable results with it.”

She added that the reason many of her fellow classmates are pursuing a degree in dietetics is “because they see that our current nutritional thinking is not working and they are more than willing to discuss alternatives.” Looking at the results real patients are seeing (and Adele saw quite a bit when she worked with Dr. Westman) is what makes her confident in sharing what she has learned. It’s not always an easy road studying nutrition at the highest levels.

I pay very close attention in biochemistry class. And I do just let some comments go. I’m learning to pick my battles (with classmates) and to speak openly (with professors–which I was very hesitant to do at first). I have not had to argue with any instructor, but at the same time, they have insisted that I back up what I am saying with real information and not just “diet book” knowledge.

She encouraged anyone who is interested in becoming an RD to seriously go after it because “the paradigm is shifting.”

I predict clinicians with a full range of knowledge regarding the science and practical application of low-carb nutrition will be in much demand in the near future.

I would not be surprised at all, Adele! THANK YOU for being such a bold champion for carbohydrate-restriction and I’m appreciative of people like you and Keith who are willing to let the evidence speak for itself when you encounter opposition to what you know is true. These next few years will certainly be exciting to watch as more and more doctors, nurses, and nutritionists rise up in defense of low-carb living for their patients because they know it works. That’s one reason why I started my “List Of Low-Carb Doctors” blog to connect patients with doctors who understand their need and desire to use low-carb as a therapy for their obesity and disease. I share Adele’s optimism that the numbers will continue to rise in the future!

Are you in medical, nursing, or nutrition school right now and you’d like to share a story about how you’ve stood up in defense of the low-carb way of life? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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