a sustainable diet for optimal health
The first University-based course on plant-based nutrition in the UK has launched. The course has been a team effort involving 15 UK plant-based experts, many of whom are board members of Plant-based health professionals UK.
How did this all come about?
I was fortunate enough to meet Professor Joy Carter, the Vice Chancellor of University of Winchester, after an introduction from a mutual friend. Prof Carter is a passionate vegan and cares deeply about animals and the environment. It only took the one meeting to decide that there was a need to develop a University-based course on plant-based nutrition for health professionals and that Winchester University would lead the way. By this time, the University had already committed to opening a faculty of Health and Well-being, with degree programmes to include nutrition and dietetics, nursing and physiotherapy. The faculty opens on August 1st 2019 and Prof Simon Jobson, the Dean of the Faculty, has been full supportive of the plant-based nutrition course, which will sit within the faculty. I feel honoured to be working with an institution whose core values include compassion and social justice for people, animals and the planet.
How will the course work?
This is a fully online, 6-week, distance learning course, facilitated and taught by Dr Shireen Kassam. It will require 5-6 hours of study per week and consists of a combination of written material, pre-recorded lectures, quizzes to test learning and a weekly compulsory discussion on a controversial topic. This course has been accredited for 15 CPD hours by the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine (BSLM). Eight of these hours can be counted towards the Diploma in Lifestyle Medicine from the BSLM. At the end of the course students will be issued a certificate of completion from the University. This course is open to those in and outside the UK.
What is the content of the course?
Diet choices are now the top cause of death and disability globally. Not only is our diet causing ill health, it is a major factor contributing to climate destruction. A global shift to a predominantly plant-based diet is deemed necessary to preserve both human and planetary health. But what is a healthy plant-based diet? How can it be achieved? What are the benefits? All these questions will be answered in this 6-week course designed for those interested in improving their knowledge and expertise in the field of plant-based nutrition. The course is predominately aimed at health professionals (e.g. doctors, nurses, dieticians, nutritionists, physiotherapists) who would like to incorporate evidence-based nutrition into routine clinical practice. The course will also benefit those who are looking to improve their personal nutrition education. However, please note that a basic knowledge of medical terminology and chronic diseases is assumed.
The course will start by discussing the main dietary determinants of disease, disability and death, focussing on data from the United Kingdom and comparing with international data sets. It will discuss different types of nutrition studies and common dietary patterns. The course will review the role of nutrition in promoting optimal health and wellbeing. Key components of a healthy plant-based diet will be covered, including nutrients of abundance and those that are notable for their relative absence. There will then be an in-depth review of the scientific literature supporting the role of plant-based nutrition in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. This will include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, dementia, obesity, bone health, women’s health and gastrointestinal disorders. In the final week, comparisons will be made with other popular diet patterns, such as ‘low-carb’ and ‘Paleo’ diets, and national and international nutrition guidelines will be reviewed with analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. The connection between our diet choices and the impact on the environment will be explored and a model of sustainable farming will be presented.
Here is a breakdown of the topics covered in each week
1) Dietary determinants of disease and disability and the burden of malnutrition
2) Types of nutrition studies – strengths and weaknesses
3) Healthy dietary patterns and dietary assessment tools
4) Metabolism of fat, protein and carbohydrates
1) Components of a whole food plant-based diet
2) How to ensure a whole food plant-based diet is nutritionally complete
3) Plant-based diets for pregnancy and children
4) General overview of the benefits of a plant-based diet for health
5) Plant-based diets for the prevention and treatment of diabetes
1) The role of plant-based diets in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease
2) Plant-based diets in chronic renal failure
3) The role of plant-based diets in preventing and treating obesity and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
1) The role of plant-based diets for cancer prevention, recurrence and survival
2) The role of plant-based diets for prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal diseases
3) The impact of diet on mental health and well-being and impact of plant-based diets
4) How to facilitate behaviour change through coaching
1)The role of diet and exercise in maintaining musculoskeletal health and preventing osteoporosis
2) The impact of diet and nutrition on Women’s health, including endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, menstrual disorders and menopause
3) The role of diet and lifestyle in preventing dementia and frailty
1) A review of UK and international dietary guidelines – strengths and weaknesses
2) Popular diet patterns, including ‘Paleo’ and ‘low-carb’
4) Plant-based diets for athletes
3) The impact of diet on environmental health and sustainable farming for a plant-based world
The content has been created by 15 plant-based health professionals and experts from the UK. Many have been plant-based themselves for several years and use plant-based nutrition in their clinical practice as part of an overall approach to lifestyle medicine. You will be familiar with many of the lecturers from their prominent social media profiles and include:
Dr Shireen Kassam
(Course organiser and facilitator)
Shireen is a Consultant Haematologist and Honorary Senior Lecturer at King’s College Hospital, London with a specialist interest in the treatment of patients with lymphoma. She is also passionate about promoting plant-based nutrition for the prevention and reversal of chronic diseases and for maintaining optimal health after treatment for cancer.
She qualified as a medical doctor in 2000, initially training in general medicine, and gaining Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP; 2003). She then specialised in Haematology and achieved Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists (FRCPath 2008). During training, she took time out to undertake a PhD (University of London, 2011). Her research investigated the role of selenium, an essential micronutrient, in sensitising cancer cells to chemotherapy. She was able to show that supra-nutritional doses of selenium could enhance the action of chemotherapy in the laboratory. She has published a number of peer-reviewed papers in the field of lymphoma.
Shireen discovered the power of nutrition for the prevention and treatment of disease in 2013 and since then has been following a whole food plant-based diet. She has immersed herself in the science of nutrition and health, reading scientific papers and books, attending nutrition conferences and completing recognised continuing professional development activities in the field. In 2018 she was appointed as a Visiting Professor of Plant-Based Nutrition at Winchester University where she is developing a dedicated course on the subject.
Shireen is Founder and Director of Plant-based health professionals UK Ltd (plantbasedhealthprofessionals.com), a non-profit organisation whose mission is to provide evidence-based education to health professionals and the general public on plant-based nutrition and other lifestyle interventions for the prevention and treatment of chronic disease.
Leila Dehghan, MD, MSc (Nutr), is a doctor turned plant-based nutritionist. She received her medical degree from the University of Vienna and completed her internship in the UK. Her personal experience overcoming health challenges through diet shifted her professional interests to focusing on the power of nutrition. After earning eCornell’s Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate and transitioning to a whole food plant-based diet herself, she decided to obtain a master’s degree in Clinical and Public Health Nutrition from the University College of London. As a registered associate nutritionist with a deep understanding of the relationship between diet and health, Dr. Dehghan helps others optimise their well-being, manage their weight, and prevent or recover from lifestyle diseases.
Dr Alicja Baczynska
Dr Baczynska has developed an interest in plant-based nutrition in 2015. She has been an advocate for whole food plant-based diet (WFPBD) in her workplace, presenting at departmental meetings and educating her patients. She completed the Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and eCornell in January 2019. She is particularly passionate about raising awareness of how intensive lifestyle changes (which include WFPBD) can prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease. The focus of her future work will be on prevention and root-cause treatment of cognitive and physical frailty.
Dr Gemma Newman
As a broadcaster and writer, she has been regularly featured on television, including ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky News Sunrise. She has contributed to articles for magazines including Glamour, Zest and Health magazine. Her family lead a fully plant-based lifestyle, following the extensive research she had done on the scientific literature on the health benefits associated with whole-food plant based nutrition. She is regularly invited to teach other doctors and the general public via training programmes, podcasts and conferences about the benefits of plant-based nutrition.
Dr Alan Desmond
Dr Desmond actively promotes a Whole Food Plant-Based Diet, particularly for patients with chronic digestive disorders. He is a Advisory Board member of Plant Based Professionals UK and is currently engaged in Clinical Research evaluating a Whole Food Plantbased Dietary Intervention as a treatment for patients with Crohn’s disease.
Dr Sue Kenneally
She has eaten a plant-based diet for a number of years and is delighted to be on the advisory board of Plant Based Health Professionals UK. She works closely with them, promoting the benefits of plant-based diets to colleagues and the public alike.
Dr Miriam Martinez-Biarge
Miriam works now as an Honorary Consultant Neonatologist & Research Fellow at Queen Charlotte’s and Hammersmith Hospitals. She specialises in the follow up of infants and young children who have been born prematurely, who have had neurological problems around the time of birth, or who are at risk of neurodevelopmental impairments. She also has a private practice in Spain as a neonatologist and developmental paediatrician.
Miriam became a vegetarian when she was in medical school and has been vegan for the past 6 years. Although she became a vegan for ethical reasons, she also started to study the health benefits of plant-based diets, not only for adults but for children as well. Since 2013 she has had a blog where she promotes a whole food plant-based diet and counsels parents on how to provide good vegan food for their children. She is the author of a book on vegan nutrition for babies and children.
Mr Rajiv Bajekal
In 2016 he had some personal health problems and had put on a lot of weight. He and his wife researched diet and nutrition and embarked on a way of living a healthier life with compassion and care for the environment. In the process, he lost 25 kg of weight, reversed his prediabetes and found a new zest for helping his patients live a healthier life.
He decided to study lifestyle medicine, as many of the disorders affecting people nowadays are lifestyle-related and he and his wife (Consultant Gynaecologist) both studied and passed the Diploma examination in Lifestyle Medicine conducted by the American board of lifestyle medicine, He and his wife Nitu are now certified lifestyle medicine practitioners with a Diploma from the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine – by far his proudest achievement.
Dr Nitu Bajekal
She is the founder of Women for Women’s Health (WfWH), a voluntary service set up to empower women of all ages to make lifestyle choices that will help improve their own health and also that of their families and friends through education. Most (80%) of what doctors see in their clinical practice is related to lifestyle, with nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress playing key roles in major chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, cancers as well as in women’s health issues such as Polycystic ovarian syndrome, menopause, bone health, lifestyle cancers amongst many other problems that women face regularly. Dr Bajekal is passionate about educating women to take charge of their own health. Through information leaflets, lectures, blogs, health events and workshops, she provides reliable up to date medical and lifestyle information for the general public, doctors, workplaces and schools. Young people especially are at the right stage where making small changes can have a tremendous impact on their future health.
Dr Miriam Maisel
In 2017 Dr Maisel authored a chapter in the medical textbook Nutrition and Integrative Medicine, a Primer for Clinicians. This chapter focuses on core clinical studies, which demonstrate positive results from the use of plant based diets in treating heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and autoimmune conditions. Most doctors will not have learned about these studies in medical school or in the course of their careers, and thus they may fail to offer a more benign, effective and economical option to their patients. By learning about the potential to address many medical problems with food, clinicians can be empowered to offer their patients a better quality of informed choice. Offering patients informed choice is a key ethical responsibility of all doctors as outline in many versions of the GMC’s publication “Duties of a Doctor”.
In 2018 Dr Maisel was part of the first UK cohort of physicians to sit and pass the Lifestyle Medicine Certification Examination in Edinburgh. She is now a Certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician, with a diploma from the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine. Dr Maisel currently works in as a GP in the Dumfries and Galloway Out of Hours Service.
Sam completed her first degree in Physiology at the University of Liverpool in 2008 where she initially became vegan and her interest in human nutrition began to flourish. She has since worked in numerous roles including teaching and animal charity work before pursuing her passion in nutrition and training to become a dietitian.
Sam hopes to begin running plant-based nutrition courses in Bristol and will be shortly converting her post-graduate diploma into a masters degree by undertaking a research project in paediatric nutrition.
Professor Amir Kassam
Born in Zanzibar, Amir has a BSc (Hons) in Agricultural Science and a PhD in Agricultural Ecology from the University of Reading (UK), and an MS in Irrigation Science from the University of California, Davis. Amir’s professional work is focused on globalizing the transformation of the conventional degrading ‘Green Revolution’ agriculture to sustainable agriculture based on the adoption of No-Till Conservation Agriculture.
During his career, Amir has worked with a number of national and international agricultural development, educational and research institutions around the world, including several CGIAR centers, UN agencies and NGOs. His former positions include: Deputy Director General of WARDA (the Africa Rice Centre); Interim Executive Secretary of the CGIAR Science Council; Chairman of the Aga Khan Foundation (UK); Chairman of the Focus Humanitarian Assistance Europe Foundation; and the Chairman of Tropical Agriculture Association, UK. He has published widely on the productivity, economic, environmental and societal benefits of Conservation Agriculture, which now covers over 180 million hectares of global cropland.
Amir became a vegetarian seven years ago and a vegan three years ago because of ethical and environmental reasons, as well as to enjoy better health, lifestyle and quality of life.
Dr Arvind Maheru
Life experience brought the power of whole food plant-based (WFPB) nutrition to life for Arvind. She also then became interested in its application to Mental Health and Wellbeing.
She and her family adopted a plant-based lifestyle in 2016 due to its multiple health benefits and she continues to advocate for a whole food plant-based diet at all stages of life. She now has a specialist interest in Plant-based Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine. Arvind became a graduate of the AFMCP-UK (Applying Functional Medicine in Clinical Practice) course in 2018.
Dr Agnes Electra Chlebinska
She qualified as a medical doctor in 2002, initially training in acute medicine and cardiology, while pursuing Membership of the Royal College of Physicians. She has published a number of peer-reviewed papers in the field of cardiology, prostate cancer, and use of Artificial Neural Networks. In 2009 she recognised the adverse effect of purely reactive medicine and the need for Preventive Precision Medicine. Since then, Agnes has obtained qualifications in Plant Based Nutrition, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Mindfulness, Hypnosis, NLP, Personal fitness Training and Lifestyle Medicine, while working within the NHS and private sector. She has launched multiple pilots projects to create virtual and physical infrastructure of Lifestyle and Preventive Medicine for adults and children in the UK.
Agnes discovered the power of behaviour therapy, supportive community, plant- based nutrition and fitness for the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases in 2009. She has immersed herself in the science of preventive medicine, reading scientific papers and books, attending conferences and completing recognised continuing professional development activities to keep up to date in the field, including the diploma from the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine/BSLM.
Agnes founded Happy Bootcamps and Academy for Health Superheroes in 2012, providing 300K children and adults with free education, health and fitness events and supportive community.
Dr Mahesh Shah
He has a holistic approach to healthcare and a passion for helping people prevent, improve and overcome chronic health problems through whole food plant-based nutrition. He follows a whole food plant-based diet.
Mahesh is currently studying for a diploma in Naturopathic Nutrition and is also medical lead for Region 2 of the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organisation UK, which amongst other activities, provides free health awareness events for local communities in North West London.
Registered Dietitian, Bsc, MSc
Dietitian/nutritionist specialised in clinical nutrition and immunology
Despina Marselou was born in Athens on 06/08/1979. She studied in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at London Metropolitan University in England under the dissertation title of Clinical Research: Thermogenesis, Obesity and the Macro-metabolic Pathways: Relation to Obesity. The research was published in 2004 in the journal of the British Dietetic Association as one of the best clinical trials among young graduates in the UK.
She received a Master of Science in Clinical Nutrition and Immunology from the University of Surrey in England with emphasis on dietary support and behaviour modification in patients with immune system disorders such as diabetes, cancer and autoimmune diseases. Her postgraduate clinical research titled Examining the rate of dehydration in people with acute stroke and dysphagia, was conducted at the University Hospitals of the National Health System (NHS) Barts & the London and Homerton in London where it was evaluated as a model research. Finally, she successfully completed her postgraduate study program: “The Atherothrombotic Disease” organized by the Greek Society of Lipidology, Atherosclerosis and Vascular Disease.
Her professional career as a clinical dietitian at Newcastle upon Tyne and North Tees (NHS) University Hospitals in England enabled her to practice her scientific training as:
- Senior dietitian of Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology
- Responsible for stroke and rehabilitation wards and clinics
- Responsible for allergy and immunology clinics
On her return to Greece, she was introduced as a research associate by the Agricultural University of Athens and was responsible for clinical nutrition seminars for first year and postgraduate students in the period 2007-2009.
She is currently working in her dietetic private practice with special interest on evidence based-plant based diets and holds a certificate in Plant-Based nutrition through eCornell University /T Colin Campbell Centre for Nutrition. She is responsible for the nutritional care of patients with immune disorders, chronic inflammation and neurodegenerative diseases and passionate on promoting dietetic plans for weight loss with focus on the immune system.
She is a frequent contributor to local and national newspapers and magazines, and is often a guest speaker on public speeches, health radio and television broadcasts.
In terms of diet, he has not eaten meat for approaching 40 years and has now been fully plant based for around 6 years. As a keen cyclist, the decision to become 100% plant based was inspired by the reading of ‘Eat and Run’ by Scott Jurek, an American ultra-marathon runner. During this time, he has studied closely the increasing evidence for the benefits of a Whole Food Plant Based diet – benefits which he himself has experienced in terms of fuelling his cycling well into his 60s!