With our clinician chat segments, we sit down with physicians at the Ageless and Wellness Center. This segment we speak to Dr. Lori Ann Leaseburge about nutrition and the role it plays in health.
AWN: You know the saying, "A good diet is the best medicine." Have you seen that proven true in working with your patients?
Dr. Leaseburge: Absolutely! Food is medicine. Nutrients in food work with your biology to support all of the biochemical processes that have to occur. If you put the wrong oil and gas in your car it doesn't run. If you put the wrong food in your body it doesn't run, either. Patients who work with their diets definitely have better results. For example, hormonal imbalance such as estrogen dominance can be worsened by the "Standard American diet" which is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, processed foods, xenoestrogens (substances that act like estrogen in the body) and hormones in foods. Reducing or eliminating these foods definitely help.
AWN: You worked as a Registered Dietician at Duke before completing your medical degree. What role does nutrition play in traditional medical school training?
Dr. Leaseburge: Very little nutrition education is taught in medical school. Most medical doctors graduate with no real understanding of nutrition. That said, my training as a dietician still didn't completely prepare me for the work I do today. My current level of expertise has come through my own research and my training through the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M) and the Institute for Functional Medicine.
AWN: You are an Advanced Fellow of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. Can you tell us a little about this organization?
Dr. Leaseburge: A4M is a non-profit organization whose main objective is education to detect, prevent and treat disorders related to aging. The underlying philosophy is that accumulated physiologic dysfunction can be treated with the goal of improving the quality of life and possibly extending the lifespan.
AWN: Can a person be deficient in essential nutrients and not know it? What are the most important -- and most often overlooked -- nutrient levels that everyone should have checked?
Dr. Leaseburge: Absolutely, yes, you can be deficient and not realize that it is affecting your life. There is data that shows that 90% of people are deficient in some nutrient. The most common ones are magnesium, zinc, vitamin D, omega3s, and B vitamins. We check our patients for all of those (and more, depending on each patient's needs and symptoms) when we order bloodwork. Replacing those deficiencies can have a profound effect on a patient's health and well-being.
AWN: If someone eats a healthy diet, do they still need supplements? Can't we get everything we need from food?
Dr. Leaseburge: In a perfect world, we wouldn't need supplements, but stress, poor sleep, and poor quality food have too much impact. Even when people eat a so-called "healthy diet," the phytonutrient content is less than optimal due to being grown in nutrient-depleted soils and because of the use of pesticides. We don't eat diets that are varied enough, either. You may see studies that suggest that supplementation is unnecessary, but in general, those studies are done using one nutrient in a high amount, which is not the same as taking a blend of vitamins.
AWN: Why do you and the other clinicians recommend pharmaceutical-grade supplements?
Dr. Leaseburge: Let me give you an example: one of my patients starting taking a vitamin D supplement, at 5000IU a day. Her bloodwork showed that her level was 65, which is perfect. When she came in for her next appointment, her level was 29! She said she was still taking 5000IU every day -- so what happened? It turned out that she had switched to a big-box store brand. When you see results like that, there is no question that a difference in supplement quality has a direct effect on health.