Dale Pinnock BSc (hons), PgDip (Nutr Med)
BSc – Human Nutrition
BSc – Herbal Medicine
PgDip – Nutritional Medicine
Gourmand World Cookbook Awards: Best first cookbook
Guild of Food Writers: Miriam Polunin Award for work in Healthy Eating
My journey into health and nutrition started, like many others, due to my own health challenges. At the age of about 10-11, the summer of leaving primary school and heading to secondary school, I started getting acne, and bad. I looked a right state! I went to many different doctors over the years and tried all manner of concoctions, but nothing made a huge difference. When I was about 15 yrs old, I was sat moping at my friends house one night, and his mum lent me a book on nutrition and said “unless you change whats happening on the inside….nothing will change on the outside”. I read the book cover to cover, and was hooked. I changed my diet over night focusing on fresh real foods for the first time. I read everything. I mean everything I possibly could. Between then and now I have easily read over a thousand books on nutrition. I experimented on myself, tried every diet from raw food to macrobiotics and everything in between, and soon realised that this was what I was meant to do. Nothing captivated me in the same way. So, with that in mind, by my early 20s I decided to go to university.
My initial intention was to do a BSc in Human Nutrition, that would then lead on to a post graduate in Dietetics, to be a dietitian in the NHS. However, just after my access course, I actually did some observation days at Addenbrookes Hospital with the dietetics department….and I HATED IT!! One of my big issues is that I cannot handle being overtly faced with Human mortality. I just cant hack it. On the very first day I observed dietitian’s giving high protein IV feeds to a patient that had been in a house fire, saw various feeds being given to transplant patients, late stage cancer patients etc. This just floored me. So, still with the same passion, I knew I wanted to study nutrition, but the hospital life was NOT for me. I soldiered on and studied for a BSc in Nutrition as planned.
During the later stages of the nutrition degree I started to become fascinated with phytochemicals – the compounds in plants that arent nutrients, ie you cannot physically show deficiency signs if you dont consume them, but are powerfully pharmacologically active, as in they can affect physiology and drastically! At that time, phytochemistry was not part of conventional nutrition degrees. The only place the subject could be studied was on a herbal medicine degree, which I soon enrolled for. I’ll be honest, some of the…..science….. was questionable at times, but the elements that I really wanted – the phytochemistry, pharmacology, pathophysiology, differential diagnosis, and clinical skills, that were delivered by the University’s school of biosciences, were spot on, and I finished the degree feeling that I had certainly enhanced my studies and my skills.
After working in the health industry for a few years I felt that I wanted to take my studies further. I enrolled on to the Post Graduate Diploma/MSc in Nutritional Medicine at the University of Surrey. This is the leading evidence based nutrition course on the planet. It is recommended to Dr’s by the General Medical Council. The British Dietetic Association recommend it to dietitian’s working towards their diploma of advanced dietetic practice, and it is accredited by the Association for Nutrition. All in all its pretty serious. This course was just wonderful, and I had the true privilege of attending lectures by the worlds leading authorities in the field of nutrition. I left with the Post Graduate Diploma, with the intention of completing the research project for the award of MSc as soon as schedule permits it. Check out the course here: http://www.surrey.ac.uk/postgraduate/nutritional-medicine-2017
I now combine the science of nutrition with the culinary arts. I have been cooking literally all of my life and have worked in various kitchens from hotels to gastro pubs and everything in between. I now feel so deeply fortunate that I can share my work via writing and my work within the media. It is my mission to show everyone how easy, and delicious healthy food can be and how we can be in the driving seat when it comes to our own health, and that taking this positive action can be a delightful and indulgent experience.
I have to be very clear that I have no belief or interest in the whole concept of alternative medicine as such. I used to be very much of that persuasion, but times have changed as I have evolved personally and professionally. That isnt dismissive to natural therapies at all, rather a desire to move away from the idea of ‘this’ being an alternative to ‘that’, or ‘them against us’. As far as I am concerned, there are many facets of the health care picture, rather than conventional vs alternative. If somebody is sick and they require drugs, then they require drugs. End of story. However, that doesnt mean that there isnt also much that the individual can do for themselves by including other treatments or making changes to their diet and lifestyle. Lets use high blood pressure as an example. If someones blood pressure is very high, then they are at absolute genuine risk of more serious cardiovascular events, as the increased pressure will greatly increase the risk of damage to the inner lining of blood vessels, which can lead to the beginnings of heart disease, or indeed the further damage to any problem areas that may be present in the individuals vessels. This isnt fantasy, or theory, or a nice idea. This is fact. It is pathophysiology (physical changes that occur in the body during the onset and progression of disease) that we understand well. As such, medications that decrease pressure and take the burden off the cardiovascular system will save lives. Period! Now, at the same time, the individual has to get off of their butt and make some changes in their life. Intakes of sodium, saturated fatty acids, glycaemic values of food etc need to change. Improved intakes of other nutrients can certainly counter certain pathophysiological changes. A group of compounds found in things like green tea, onions, and dark chocolate, called flavonoids can actually cause an increase in the body’s production of chemicals that widen blood vessels and reduce blood pressure, as do compounds in chilli and ginger. Reducing sodium intake, increasing omega 3 fatty acids and reducing bad fats all naturally lower levels of chemicals that tighten blood vessels, sending blood pressure up. All these things have been researched, documented and understood. We know enough about the impact of food and nutrients on physiology to see that there is a valid place for the use of food in personal and clinical management of illness.
The problem seems to arise, in my opinion, when we have a polarised all or nothing type of approach to treatment. Again, using the high blood pressure example above, if someone were to just pop a pharmaceutical pill and still spend every night in the pub and the takeaway, then their capacity to get better is limited. On the same note, if someone has serious hypertension, and they decide that they just want to eat broccoli every day, then likewise, they probably won’t be doing themselves any favours. One thing in isolation is only going to have a narrow spectrum of benefit. Bring the two approaches together, then the broader the therapeutic spectrum. If we accept that there are many elements to what we can do to get better, then we are in a better position to return to good health.
That is where I feel that my role is. To look at the science regarding what foods can be useful during specific physiological events and diseases, what dietary changes we can make when faced with health challenges, and then combining all of this information with my culinary skills to actually create something practical that people can use in their day to day life. Still enjoying their food, knowing that what they are doing is relevant to their health concerns. Its not about alternatives, its not about false promises or miracle cures, its about giving some simple and enjoyable tools to move towards better heath, with a full belly and a smile on our face.
Combine evidence based nutritional science, with the culinary arts, and you have a powerful tool that can keep you in wonderful health for life.