ARCHIVED - Chronic Diseases in Canada


Volume 30, no. 3, June 2010

Book review
Food and Nutrients in Disease Management

M. Sicotte, PhD (Candidate), University of Montreal

Author References: Ingrid Kohlstadt (ed.)

Publisher info: CRC Press/Taylor and Francis Group: Boca Raton, FL, USA

Publication Date: 2009

Price: $172.50 

ISBN: 978-1-4200-6762-0

This 740-page textbook discusses the role of foods and nutrients in the etiology, pathophysiology and management of various disease states. Meant primarily for medical doctors and students, other health care professionals including nutritionists and nurses could also benefit from this reference as a guide to easing the integration of a nutritional perspective into daily clinical practice. In the preface, the editor expresses a desire to reconcile modern medicine and food and to encourage doctors to consider nutrients as factors equally necessary to the care of diseased patients as the treatment itself.

Recently there has been a rise in popular interest in the role of food and nutrients in health promotion and disease prevention. The literature has mostly addressed the capacity of certain foods to promote and preserve health. (One example is the very popular Foods to Fight Cancer by Dr. R. Béliveau and Dr. D Gingras.) However, the role of food and nutrients in the etiology, screening, treatment and management of disease states has not been well explored; as such, this medical textbook is a timely addition to health care professionals’ bookshelves.

The textbook is divided into 9 sections that group diseases according to shared characteristics, for example, cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, neurologic and psychiatric disorders. In total, the book contains 43 chapters written by 64 experts, each addressing one and sometimes two afflictions. The vast majority of the disorders discussed are chronic or recurrent (for example, rhinosinusitis) and representative of prevalent health issues in North America. Although the spectrum of diseases covered is quite large, a few but important disorders with known ties to nutrition were left out, for example, multiple sclerosis and HIV.

Most chapters vary in their structure, the topics discussed and the order in which each subheading is presented. The information is up-to-date with many references to the most recent studies in nutritional epidemiology. However, the detail of the information provided varies greatly from one expert to the next; while some authors favour lengthy descriptions of one specific etiological theory and the relevant actions, others used a broader approach that incorporates suggestions that go beyond the discussed disease.

Despite the pertinence of the information in this book, a stricter editorial approach would have added clarity and practicability. The emphasis placed on nutrition, food or nutritional indicators is uneven from one author to the next. A certain number of chapters systematically address key issues in keeping with the book’s aim, such as the role of food and nutrients in the etiology of the disease, diet-associated risk factors, the possibility of prevention through nutritional adjustments, nutritional parameters to screen for when completing patient evaluations, possible interactions between foods and traditional treatments, and foods and nutrients as treatment; however, in other chapters, the relevance of the information with regard to disease management or prevention is less obvious, incomplete, insufficiently discussed, restricted to a very small proportion of the chapter or addressed in a very general manner rather than linked to the diseased state under consideration. Similarly, in a few chapters, certain disease-related topics, such as patient evaluation, are discussed without reference to nutritional risk factors.

Overall, physicians, medical students and health care professionals will find this textbook quite informative and useful. The pertinent nutritional information presented within its pages holds practical applications to assist the evaluation and management of patients. This work is long overdue and reflects the crucial fact that diet and eating habits can significantly impact disease management and should not be overlooked when caring for patients.

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