Bruce Daggy, Ph.D
Nutrisystem Senior Vice President of Research and Development and Chief Science Officer
Editorial Team Member of www.nutrisystemblog.com
POINT OF VIEW
Improving education for diet and lifestyle
What do you appreciate most about your role at Nutrisystem?
In my long career in healthcare, this job has the greatest “feel-good factor”. We measure our plans’ ability to improve people’s lives in clinical trials, but even more satisfying, we hear about it every week in letters and e-mails from customers and their healthcare providers. One customer with type 2 diabetes recently sent me a box of Florida citrus as a thank-you for saving her life. She’s lost more than 90 pounds and is off all her diabetes medications for the first time in over 20 years. Stories like that bring a lump to my throat and make me eager to come to work each day.
How do you see Nutrisystem playing a role in helping patients with diabetes lead healthier lifestyles?
My doctorate is in Nutrition, and I firmly believe that we simply must use diet and lifestyle to reduce the burden of diabetes on individuals and our society. Both the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and the risk of complications from the disease rise sharply with obesity, and the typical American diet is clearly part of the problem. Simply telling people to “watch what you eat and get some exercise” is a prescription for failure; specific and practical advice is needed. With Nutrisystem, people learn by doing. We all learned a lot when we were three years old without ever attending a class or reading a book; we learned by observing and by doing. It’s a powerful approach. Nutrisystem users experience a pattern of eating, with portion control, frequent meals, and balanced nutrition. The foods we provide or recommend are low in added sugar and deliver recommended amounts of fiber and other nutrients. Overall the program is low glycemic index, which means the foods tend to slowly release their glucose into the bloodstream, minimizing blood sugar spikes; this is particularly important for people with diabetes. The program is simple to follow, and people are often surprised by how well hunger is managed. It’s very convenient to have most of your calories delivered to your door, already portioned out, and with minimal preparation time required. Nutrisystem is more than the food; we also provide educational materials, tools, physical activity plans, and support. If you follow our program, you will lose weight, and would be likely to experience health benefits from both the weight loss and the improved diet.
What are some of the most pertinent challenges you have noticed in terms of those living with diabetes and trying to manage their diet to their necessary programs?
I’ll pick two key challenges:
1) A lack of support for nutrition and lifestyle changes. Most patients with diabetes never see a diabetes educator. Most primary care docs are not trained in nutrition, nor are they compensated for counseling; they reach for the prescription pad and send the patient on his or her way. The situation is even worse when you consider people with pre-diabetes; there is too little effort being put into prevention. That’s why Nutrisystem has worked to develop a simple-to-follow, turnkey approach to diet and lifestyle. A diabetes educator or primary care doc can recommend Nutrisystem D as a means to get a patient started on an effective diet & lifestyle program, while the provider takes on the other aspects of disease management such as medications, blood glucose monitoring, foot care, etc.
2) Dining out is a particular challenge for people with diabetes. Poor choices abound in our restaurants. While Nutrisystem provides a dining out guide to help with restaurant selections, we also offer a number of portable foods. A Nutrisystem bar entrée, combined with a salad from the cafeteria, is an example of a healthy lunch at work. A Nutrisystem snack could be the right alternative to something from a vending machine. I have taken Nutrisystem foods with me on trips to England and Iceland!
What is the most compelling scientific evidence for you on the effectiveness of Nutrisystem D?
The scientific bedrock of our program is its alignment to weight loss and diabetes science in the medical literature; not least of which, the fact that the program meets the nutritional guidelines of the American Diabetes Association. But the most compelling evidence comes from clinical studies conducted on the Nutrisystem D program itself. There are three such studies in people with type 2 diabetes. Beyond the expected weight loss, there were significant improvements in glucose control, and in a host of other risk factors affecting people with diabetes, including waist circumference, cholesterol, triglycerides, and systolic blood pressure. It was not uncommon for the doctors of these clinical trial subjects to reduce their patients’ prescriptions for diabetes medications over the course of the trial. We hear the same thing from our customers.
What do you think of the Fit4D Pathways as a means to helping improve education and adherence within the diabetes community?
People with diabetes and their support community have a critical need for health information they can trust, delivered when and where they need it. Fit4D’s combination of expert staff and effective use of technology means that people with diabetes have a resource that’s almost like having your doctor in your pocket. You know that you are not alone when it comes to managing your health.
What do you want people to know right now about the programs of Nutrisystem?
Everyone I’ve talked with who has done well on Nutrisystem could give me their “ah-ha moment” – a triggering event that made them decide to take charge of their health, to take action. It might have been seeing themselves in a photograph and not liking what they saw, or a comment someone made about their weight, or a situation of social embarrassment like being told they needed to buy two airline seats, or finding out that their weight problem was now a diabetes problem. Whatever it was, in that moment they empowered themselves to get onto a new path. They did their research, and they decided that Nutrisystem would be the tool that would help them. Success truly is up to the individual, but people should know that we have good programs, and that we are here to help.
Interviewed by Alexis Fedor, Fit4D Online Marketing Manager