A friend of mine and I were talking about nutrition and she told me about one of her cousins who has cancer and how he was associated with an organization that focuses on nutrition for cancer patients. There are over 13 million people in the United States who are living with or have had cancer, and many of these people experience difficulties with eating food due to interferences from their treatments. Nutrition is a fundamental part of health, especially for those who are ill, that is extremely overlooked in the field of medicine, specifically cancer. A group of organizations have come together to create an amazing not-for-profit program that provides cancer patients with a variety of nutritious recipes that actually appeal to them and make them feel good.
Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can give patients negative symptoms that make it very challenging to find foods that they want to eat. Many patients suffer from loss of appetite, low energy, weight loss or gain, change in sense of smell and taste, mouth sores, constipation, nausea, and bloating. Weight gain during cancer treatment can lead to cancer recurrence and weight loss can undermine recovery, so it is crucial to avoid weight changes. For many of these patients, these negative symptoms from treatment can cause dietary changes, which makes it very difficult for patients to find foods to eat. If these patients aren’t able to eat, then how are they going to have the energy to fight off the cancer living in their bodies?
Bruce Moskowitz, a physician in West Palm Beach, Florida, was frustrated at the lack of emphasis on nutrition in cancer treatment, as the medical field does not offer much diet guidance to patients. He connected the officials at leading cancer centers with a food service/hospitality company and master chefs in order to make a collaborative effort to improve the nutrition and quality of life for people going through cancer treatment. Throughout 2012 a study was conducted on 1,119 cancer patients to better understand how cancer treatments affect the food habits of cancer patients in order to create a food curriculum for them to use as a guide.
Jeremy Jacobs, CEO of global food and hospitality service, Delaware North, and owner of the Boston Bruins, gave a grant to fund this research and the project that stemmed from it. The combined efforts of medical experts at top cancer centers, master chefs, nutritionists, and the food service company have created the Cancer Nutrition Consortium that officially launched in Boston this year. When you visit the website you learn about the goals of the consortium and about all of the collaborators who made this project possible. The website provides cancer patients with recipes for various kinds of entrees, sides, salads, soups, and desserts; some of the recipes are accompanied by a video that shows the process of the chef cooking the food. The site also hosts a forum where patients can ask professional chefs and nutritionists about their food and health needs.
The study found out what kinds of issues the patients were having that interfered with eating and the types of appetite changes they were experiencing. For instance, many patients crave comfort foods and 69% said they actually craved fruits and veggies. Once the chefs and nutritionists figured out some of the common changes and patterns of what patients were hungry for, they were able to plan out recipes that the patients could make at home without the need for culinary experience, exotic ingredients, or time-consuming meals. There are over 100 recipes on the site which address different ethnic, dietary, and personal preferences that were discovered in the research study, as well as different symptoms and types of cancers.
Because all patients don’t have the same issues and experiences, there is a community section on the site, which hosts a forum. Members can communicate with a chef or nutritionist about their specific needs, as well as post in a general discussion, patient to patient posts, or suggestions for specific side effects of treatment. When the patients feel better and have more energy from eating foods they enjoy, then they will be able to handle their treatment more effectively.
This is the first time anything like this has been formed, and the organizations involved are enthusiastically working together to improve the quality of life for these patients. It is a combination of creating meals that are palatable as well as nutritional and beneficial to their treatment. There is little data out there that tells what good foods are for cancer patients to eat, so this consortium is the only one of it’s kind and is innovative in the field of cancer treatment. Visit the site below to learn more and definitely watch the video they made; it is very heartwarming.