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31st August 2022

Launch of a new textbook on plant-based nutrition

Shireen Kassam, Consultant Haematologist and Certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician Founder and Director of Plant-Based Health Professionals UK, writes about her journey to authoring a new textbook on plant-based nutrition.

Unhealthy diets are now the leading cause of chronic ill health and premature death, and our food system is a leading driver of both the climate and ecological crisis. A transition to a plant-based diet is now considered essential if we are to meet our climate and nature commitments, with clear co-benefits for improving individual and population health. A healthy plant-based diet is effective for reducing the risk of many of our commonest chronic conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and for maintaining a healthy weight. It can also be very effective in the management and treatment of established disease. Yet most health professionals are unfamiliar with how to adopt a healthy plant-based diet, let alone support their patients to do the same. Eating a diet centred around fruit, vegetables, whole grain, beans, nuts and seeds should be straightforward, given that many traditional diet patterns are based around these healthy foods. Yet, modern diets are now far removed from this way of eating, being heavy in animal-derived and processed foods and insufficient in fibre and whole plant foods.

I adopted a fully plant-based or vegan diet in 2013. At that time I did not know much about the impact of nutrition on health and knew even less about the health impacts of a plant-based diet. This was despite being a practicing doctor for 13 years. As I began to delve into the scientific literature on plant-based nutrition through courses, conferences and peer-reviewed publications, I realised that a plant-based diet was one of the best choices we can make for our own health, whilst significantly reducing our impact on the environment and of course being kinder to our fellow animal kin. During this time I also discovered the new global speciality of lifestyle medicine, which incorporates plant-based nutrition into the broader field of lifestyle interventions, and I became certified as a lifestyle medicine physician. 

With this newfound knowledge and confidence in plant-based nutrition, I wanted to find a way of sharing this with health professionals in the UK. More by luck than design, I was offered the opportunity to develop a course at the University of Winchester, which has now been running for three years; Plant-Based Nutrition; A Sustainable Diet for Optimal Health. This is a fully CPD-accredited online course, which is accessible globally, and has been incorporated into the Green Impact for Health toolkit. It has been hugely successful and popular as more healthcare professionals recognise the benefits of using plant-based nutrition in their clinical practice as an adjunct to conventional pharmaceutical treatments. In running this course, I realised that there wasn’t the ideal companion textbook, nor indeed a suitable textbook for inclusion into other healthcare courses, on the role of plant-based nutrition in clinical practice. 

This provided the opportunity to bring together both UK and international expertise to develop a textbook that would support healthcare professionals to acquire the knowledge and confidence to adopt a plant-based diet and to support patients to do the same. I feel privileged to have worked on this project with my sister Zahra Kassam, an Oncological and Lifestyle Medicine Physician and Registered Dietitian Lisa Simon.

Plant-Based Nutrition in Clinical Practice is an evidence-based, edited book aimed at health professionals and provides an up-to-date review of the uses, benefits and practical application of a plant-based diet in clinical practice, taking both a holistic and a systems-based approach. This book contains chapters that cover the abundant evidence for the beneficial impact of plant-based nutrition on the chronic diseases of our time, its impact at all stages of life, the barriers and strategies for behaviour change, and the growth of the evidence-based specialty of Lifestyle Medicine. The book concludes with a chapter on how our food system is in fact a central driver of our current planetary health crises, with root causes that are common to our health crisis, and how a shift to plant-based nutrition can help mitigate them. You can take a look inside the book here.

Published by Hammersmith Books, it will be available in the UK on 15 September and
globally on 29 September. We have made the book as affordable as possible, and the
eBook is half the price of the print version.

We hope this textbook will provide a valuable resource that was missing when I adopted a
plant-based diet and that it will be incorporated into University and Medical School libraries, ultimately making its way onto reading lists for a broad variety of healthcare courses.