'Dr. Chef' improves quality of life for patients


Workshop develops special diets for patients with digestive illness

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A student at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School has combined his background as a professionally trained chef with his medical studies to come up with a unique approach designed to markedly improve the quality of life for people with severe digestive problems. In recognition of this achievement, Rani Polak will be presented with a Kaye Innovation Award on Monday, June 6, during the 68th meeting of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Board of Governors.

Polak, now in his final year of medical studies, is a multi-talented individual. He has studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and is currently teaching at the Hadassah College Chef's School. He also has an MBA from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

To accomplish his objective of helping those with digestive problems to eat and live better, Polak helped develop a cooking workshop for patients suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Patients that suffer from this disease need to follow a difficult diet whose main restriction is low fiber content. In the special workshop for these patients, they were taught not only the theory of how to tailor a diet to their special needs, they also participated in the preparation of tasty and healthy food for their own consumption.

The workshop was composed of a series of seven meetings, each lasting three hours. The meetings started with a short lecture, given by a registered dietician, about an element of the disease's recommended diet. The rest of the meeting was a 'hands-on' session in which Polak taught cooking methods and special recipes dealing with various elements of the patient's diet. Each meeting ended with a gourmet dinner, prepared by the patients. All the participants received a recipe book containing both recipes and methods that follow the workshop's guidelines.

In a follow-up study, a significant decrease was shown in the disease activity index of the patients that participated in the workshop. Today, these workshops are an integral service of the IBD center of Hadassah University hospitals.

Polak's applied research was done under the tutelage of Prof. Eran Goldin and Dr. Eran Israeli of the Gastroenterology Department of Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Kerem. .

"I hope that in the future this project will become the basis for a larger center whose purpose it will be to improve the quality of life for patients with nutritional limitations in particular and chronic illnesses in general through combining the knowledge of doctors, chiefs and clinical dieticians," said Polak.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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