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Jennifer Young Pierce, M.D., M.P.H., will give an oral presentation outlining the results of a study that looked at positive results of cancer survivors who participated in culinary medicine classes.

Published Oct 7th, 2022

Cancer prevention researchers from USA Health will present findings from a pilot study about the impact of culinary medicine education on Oct. 19 at the 2022 Teaching Kitchen Research Conference in Los Angeles.

Jennifer Young Pierce, M.D., M.P.H., division director of Cancer Control and Prevention at the USA Health Mitchell Cancer Institute, will give an oral presentation outlining the results of a small study that looked at positive results of cancer survivors who participated in culinary medicine classes in person and online. The conference is being held at the Luskin Conference Center at UCLA in Los Angeles.

Culinary medicine is evidence-based medicine that combines nutrition science and culinary arts to create food that is delicious, promotes wellness, and prevents and treats disease.

“USA Health and MCI have a long track record of success in multiple different patient populations,” Pierce said. “This work represents an important shift to virtual that was made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic. But more importantly, demonstrating that we can have the same successes virtually allows us to expand the program exponentially to patients in our region.”

USA Health began its culinary medicine initiative in 2017, when it piloted healthy eating classes for medical students and nursing students using curriculum from Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine. The effort expanded to include classes for physical therapy students, low-income women, primary care patients, and cancer survivors and caregivers.

The study posed questions about healthy eating behaviors before and after the course to 19 cancer survivors and four caregivers who completed a six-week in-person course at Bishop State Community College, and to six cancer survivors and two caregivers who took a virtual three-week course during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After completing the course, 100% of participants reported an increase in at least one healthy behavior, such as cooking a meal at home, using the nutrition label to make food choices, or eating vegetables.

In addition, 29.4% of in-person participants and 50% of virtual participants said they exercised daily for at least 30 minutes – an activity not specifically emphasized in the curriculum.

“We are really excited, because this finding mirrors the larger data set of in-person classes from the previous three years,” Pierce said. “More research is needed to understand how culinary medicine encourages increases in exercise.”

In 2021, USA Health was admitted into a global network of 35 teaching kitchens, the Teaching Kitchen Collaborative (TKC), through a competitive selection process. The TKC is an invitational network of thought-leading organizations using teaching kitchen facilities and concepts as catalysts for enhanced personal and public health across medical, corporate, school and community settings.

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