Skip to 0 minutes and 12 secondsHELEN TRUBY: In this week in Food is Medicine, we're going to explore the history of food and how it has been used in the past, and look at some of its medicinal properties. We're also going to look at the complexity of food, in terms of the food matrix and what elements of food actually give it its therapeutic effect. We're going to think about how food is used currently, both in prevention of disease and also in the treatment of certain conditions. Food as medicine can be considered in a couple of ways.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsThe meaning that foods are there to optimize health and well-being, or that foods can be used to treat and cure a disease that has a therapeutic effect, that perhaps is similar to the way we think about drugs. One of the things that humans all have in common is they need to eat. We all need food. Our body seeks food, and if we don't have enough, over a period of time, we eventually starve and die. Most nutritional professionals will define a good diet now as one that promotes and maintains good health.

Skip to 1 minute and 11 secondsFor example, we don't talk about oranges being medicinal, but we would talk about a vitamin C tablet being medicinal, even though we could eat an orange and get the vitamin C from that. Vitamin C is important, obviously, in preventing scurvy, but the amount that we get in a vitamin C tablet is usually far in excess of the amount that we actually need to prevent scurvy. So a tablet could be regarded as a medicine, whereas no one would refer to an orange as medicine. There's often foods and the therapeutic goods that actually sit on borderlines between, are they food or are they medicine?

Skip to 1 minute and 46 secondsAnd most governments will have regulations that stipulate what are foods and what are medicinal elements of those foods. And food labeling and regulation is incredibly important in being able, for consumers, to be able to make informed choices about what they're buying. Food regulations are designed to protect the consumer, and also give them information about what actual claims are made on food, and where food can be used as medicine. In this course, we're not trying to convince you that all food can be used as medicine, but provide you with information and with some of the evidence base about where foods may be used to promote health and maintain good health.

Skip to 2 minutes and 29 secondsFood does vary with the environment, and of course, rule as individuals. So how food might be used as medicine for you is important for you to understand the context of that, so you can make up your own mind. By the end of the week, we'd really like you to be able to discuss the term "food is medicine", both in historical context and also how we use it today, recognizing that food is important for health and well-being, but it also it can be used in the treatment and prevention of diseases. And finally, we're going to be hearing from a number of experts, discussing and debating the popular question, is it better to get our nutrients from food or from supplements?

Skip to 3 minutes and 9 secondsAs well as hearing from experts, we would really love to hear from you. We'd like to hear about your experiences of using food as medicine, perhaps in your family, or indeed, examples from your own culture, where food is clearly used as medicine and has great therapeutic effect. we'd we really enjoy hearing your experiences about how are you're using food as medicine.

Welcome to Week 1

Watch Helen introduce what you’re going to learn this week: the history of food as medicine, how it’s been used in the past, the food matrix and the use of food in prevention of disease and treatment of certain conditions.

Is it ‘Food’ or ‘Medicine’?

For some foods and supplements the way they are used, or the health claims made about them can determine if they are classified as either a ‘food’ or ‘medicine’ (therapeutic).

Sometimes it is not clear cut as to whether a food or supplement is classified as a food or a medicine; sometimes there is potential for regulatory overlap. In Australia this overlap is referred to as the ‘food-medicine’ interface.

How a country defines ‘foods’ and ‘medicines’ may differ. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is the regulatory body in Australia which regulates therapeutic goods and can help determine when and how foods or supplements may be used or called ‘medicine’.

Talking point

Read the Food and medicine regulation page on the TGA website, return to this step and then in the Comments consider sharing with other learners you thoughts on the following question:

  • What’s the name of the organisation in your country that regulates medicine?
  • How do they determine if something is a medicine or food?

Don’t forget to contribute to the discussion by reviewing the comments made by other learners, making sure you provide constructive feedback and commentary. Remember you can also ‘like’ comments or follow other learners throughout the course.

Responses to your comments can be viewed by selecting Replies at the top of this step.

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This video is from the free online course:

Food as Medicine

Monash University