JUN 20, 2017 2:45 PM PDT

AMA Docs Take a Stance on Unhealthy Hospital Foods

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Have you ever wondered how hospitals get away with serving up the same sugary, greasy, cholesterol-laden foods that doctors tell patients to avoid? Maybe it’s because no one spoke up loudly enough about this blatant contradiction in our health system. But can the message get any louder if it’s coming from the American Medical Association itself?

Image credit: Pixabay.com

All hospitals strive to be the best at providing patient care and saving lives. But while much attention and money are spent on the latest technology and procedures, what hospitals feed patients and their caretakers is not often discussed. In a 2002 study, researchers found that fast-food restaurants had contracts with many hospitals, and even with the top-ranked medical institutions in the nation. It’s no wonder, then, that hospital food is notorious for being simultaneously bland and unhealthy.

But the tides may be turning for hospital nutrition. At the annual American Medical Association (AMA) meeting on June 14, the organization issued a statement denouncing the promotion of unhealthy foods, such as sugary drinks and processed meats, in hospitals.

"The American Medical Association hereby call on U.S. hospitals to improve the health of patients, staff, and visitors by (1) providing a variety of healthful food, including plant-based meals and meals that are low in fat, sodium, and added sugars, (2) eliminating processed meats from menus, and (3) providing and promoting healthful beverages.”

Essentially, the organization’s new resolution would encourage hospital staff to practice the nutrition that they preach to patients.

"Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to some of the nation's most debilitating diseases, and limiting the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages will go a long way toward helping people prevent the onset of these diseases, improve health outcomes and rein in health costs associated with chronic diseases," said Dr. William E. Kobler, an AMA board member.

Moreover, the shift towards healthier hospital foods is being likened to the shift to get tobacco products out of hospitals. "A generation ago, the AMA supported doctors who were working to get tobacco out of their hospitals. And that helped everyone, especially those patients who needed to break a bad habit," said Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).

And just like tobacco products, Bernard cites carcinogenic links in many of the processed foods that’s currently served in medical institutions around the nation. "Many doctors and administrators would like to replace them with healthier foods," said Bernard.

So, how likely are physicians and hospital staff to take their own prescription for better nutrition? Until the fast-food contracts get cut, I’d steer clear of the hospital cafeteria.

Additional source: Live Science

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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