Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition

I waffled back and forth about taking this class because of the usual things – I’m busy enough already, it costs money, etc. but then I read The China Study and decided to go for it.

The certificate is 3 classes, 2 weeks per class, so 6 weeks total. They estimate 5-7 hours per week of work, but I am finding I take longer. I have to stop and replay bits of the videos so I can take notes (because I think I remember more when I write it out). I also fall into rabbit holes researching for the assignments. Some of them are optional but I figure I should get as much as possible from this class. There are required quizzes, but they aren’t so bad.

So the first module starts out with the current state of health in the U.S., like the increase in cancer cases, the major increase in the percentage of GDP spent on healthcare, the number of heart attacks and pre-diabetes.

Top 10 Causes of Death

This data is from 2016 so now I’m curious as to how it’s changed in the past 3 years. (I could only find date for 2017 and it’s pretty much the same, but with higher numbers for accidents and Alzheimer’s, especially https://www.healthline.com/health/leading-causes-of-death)

Out of these 10 causes of death, 7 of them could be affected by diet. They are heart disease, cancer, lower respiratory disease, accidents, stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, flu and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicides. Only accidents, flu/pneumonia, and suicides are to the most extent unrelated to diet.

Clinical Trials

I fell down a rabbbit hole here because I had no idea that non-medical folk could look up clinical trials! The website is www.clinicaltrials.gov if you’re interested. The assignment was to choose a disease and see how many of those trials focus on diet’s role. My chosen disease had a couple of observational trials (creating a registry of those afflicted) and all the rest were medical procedures. Nothing at all about diet.

Nutrition’s Role in Healthcare

I knew that doctors have little education on nutrition and diet, but I had no idea the situation was so dire. Because nutrition has a lesser emphasis in medical school, only about 25% of medical schools have a required course and even then it’s only 20 contact hours over 4 years. And this has been the situation for the past 60 or so years. Also, this little bit of nutrition training leans toward biomedical and pharmacology. This explains the “deer in the headlight” look that we experience when we ask about if we should eat more of this or avoid a food. The doctors just don’t know! How can we who didn’t go to medical school know what to eat if even the doctors don’t know? It’s time that this changed – not just for doctors, but for everyone to know how to eat.

The Role of Media

Somewhere between 35% and 70% of cancers could be related for diet. 90% of heart disease is affect by risk factors like diet. 80% of healthcare spending is on those with at least one chronic disease. Yet we get so many confusing messages from media about what we should be eating. They show a video of people they stopped on the street and people talk about avoiding fat, or avoiding sugar, eating bad things in “moderation”, or trying to have a “balanced” diet. There’s also this weird focus on protein. Yes, we need protein but I think in the last 10 years, we’ve gotten a little obsessed and gone overboard.

Think about the last clickbait health story you read. One day wine is good, the next day it’s bad. One year eggs are good and then they are killing us. Low-fat is the way to go so manufacturers cut fat and add sugar and then fat is good and sugar is bad. Low-carb South Beach and Atkins are the diets to follow, or Keto, or Paleo… the conflicting information is dizzying!


That’s just a bit of the first module from the first class. I really am enjoying the videos and activities. I also think that explaining some of what I’ve learned here will help reinforce my understanding of the information. I’ll share some from module 2 later 🙂