Experts are urging GPs to prescribe ‘lifestyle medicine’ – including dietary changes, exercise and stress management – instead of medications to tackle diseases like type 2 diabetes and obesity.
The message is being pushed out by leading cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra with the launch of a new documentary and has received backing from leading health academics and the BMA.
The film describes how lifestyle changes – such as eating more nuts, olive oil and vegetables and taking specific types of exercise – can reduce the need for medication and even reverse type 2 diabetes.
Dr Malhotra advocates the benefits of the Mediterranean ‘diet’ – which he says come from much more than foods, encompassing a whole lifestyle approach including habitual movement, sunshine, sleep and the absence of sugar in the diet.
New BMA president Dr Pali Hungin, professor of primary care and general practice at Durham University, said he supported the initiative.
Dr Hungin said: ‘We do seriously need to move away from drugs alone to more selected, positive health habits – these can be extremely effective in improving diabetic control. It is fitting that we should examine this important topic during this epidemic of type 2 diabetes.’
Professor Sir Muir Gray, director of Better Value Healthcare, from the University of Oxford, said: ’The documentary emphasises the benefits of exercise not just for weight control but to prevent inflammation which is caused by stress and inactivity and the programme explores the contribution of stress, for so long ignored because of the difficulty in measuring stress.’
Sir Muir added that the ’primary focus is not on any single risk factor but as the programme emphasises, on all the factors that combine to increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and vascular dementia’.
It comes after Dr David Unwin, RCGP clinical expert in diabetes and a GP in Southport, was awarded a prestigious NHS innovator of the year award for his work combining a low-carbohydrate diet with psychological support, which saw his practice spend some £45,000 less than average on drugs for type 2 diabetes.