Researchers using cooking classes to combat heart failure

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Researchers at Tulane University in New Orleans are offering congestive heart failure (CHF) patients a new weapon: cooking classes.

Physicians routinely recommend dietary changes in the management of CHF, but that advice often goes unheeded.

Colleen McCullough, with Tulane’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine, is enrolling patients for an 18-month pilot study to see whether cooking classes can help cut 30-day readmission rates for CHF from its current level of 22 percent.

Leah Sarris, Goldring’s head chef and program director, told NPR students learn basics of nutrition, how to shop on a budget and how to freeze leftovers in addition to making some basic, healthy meals.

“More than anything, we’re teaching them kitchen confidence,” she said.

Kristi Artz, MD, a culinary medicine specialist at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is anxiously awaiting the results of the trial, which will include a randomized leg to compare readmission rates between CHF patients taking the cooking classes versus those who aren’t.

"Up to this point, we've just been focused on disease care," she told NRP. "If we could implement [culinary] programs as part of standard medical treatment, we could give out food prescriptions. That's where I hope this leads."

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