Nutrition in the Spotlight for Health Professionals: Lessons from the AANP Conference and NNPS

Dixie-Harms-2Today’s post comes from Dixie Harms, DNP, ARNP, FNP-C, BC-ADM, FAANP. Dr. Harms is a board-certified family nurse practitioner, employed full-time at Mercy Family Medicine of Urbandale, practicing in family practice and internal medicine. In addition to family practice, her specialties include diabetes care and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy. She is also board certified in Advanced Diabetes Management. Dixie obtained her diploma in nursing from Iowa Methodist School of Nursing, Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science of Nursing from Drake University, Post-Master’s FNP Certificate from Clarkson College and her Doctorate of Nursing Practice from the University of Iowa. She is also adjunct clinical faculty at the University of Iowa College of Nursing. Dr. Harms has been involved in numerous activities with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Program.  She was inducted into the Fellows of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners in 2005 and received the State Award for Excellence in 2005. She is also on the Board of Directors of the American Nurse Practitioner Foundation and is a Health Professional Advisor with the Egg Nutrition Center.  In her spare time, Dr. Harms teaches taekwondo two nights a week and is a 6th degree black belt.

In order for health care professionals to maintain their licenses/certifications, we must maintain our level of education to stay current on the most up-to-date information. Recently I attended the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) National Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, an event that was attended by over 6,000 nurse practitioners from across the United States and many countries overseas. I was fortunate enough to earn over 30 hours of continuing education in five days. While attending lectures, I found that there seemed to be a common theme amongst many of the presenters: they included information about how nutrition can have an impact on chronic illness.  Key nutrition information presented at the conference that I thought to be most useful for health professionals is outlined below.

Benefits of Consuming Omega 3 Fatty Acids:

Helps reduce pro-inflammatory effects
Reduces risk of heart arrhythmias
Helps prevent blood clots
Slightly lowers blood pressure

American Heart Association recommendations for Omega 3 Fatty Acid Intake:

Eat a variety of fish at least twice weekly
Include oils such as flaxseed, canola and soybean
Patients with heart disease should consume about 1 gram of EPA & DHA daily
Patients with high triglycerides should consume 2-4 grams EPA & DHA daily

American Heart Association recommendations for Patients with Heart Disease:

Overweight or obese patients can reduce cardiovascular risk factors with 3-5% weight loss or more
Calorie reduction diets should range from 1200-1500 kcal/day for women and 1500-1800 kcal/d for men
500-700 kcal/day calorie intake deficit along with increased physical activity can lead to weight loss


Obesity is a multifactorial problem caused by:

Increased quantity of food
Gastrointestinal responses to various nutrients
Brain responses to nutrients
Sedentary lifestyles

Hormones (peptides) that affect appetite regulation:

Ghrelin (stomach)
Cholecystokinin & GIP (small intestine)
GLP-1, Oxyntomodulin, PTT (large intestine)
Insulin/Amylin (Pancrease)
Leptin (fat)

Suggested interventions for obesity treatment:

Food/dietary intervention
Life coaching
Pharmacologic interventions
Surgery/bariatric interventions

Following the AANP conference, I had the opportunity to go to the National Nurse Practitioner Symposium (NNPS) in Keystone, Colorado, another very well-attended conference.  At NNPS, I presented with Dr. Mitch Kanter on the topic, Changing Paradigms Regarding Macronutrient Intake and Health: Translating Science into Meaningful PatientCommunication.  Even after three full days of continuing education, over 200 nurse practitioners attended our nutrition-focused evening session, making it quite obvious that nutrition is very important to health care providers in any setting.  Dr. Kanter shared with the audience several important points on the topic, including:

High carbohydrate diets and insulin promote inflammation, obesity and CVD
Replacing carbs with higher protein foods may create a more healthfully balanced diet that:
Promotes satiety
Suppresses food intake at subsequent meals
Stimulates the intestinal “satiety hormone” cholecystokinin (CCK)
Inhibits the “Hungry Hormone” ghrelin

Though nutrition science is ever-evolving, information presented at the latest health professional conferences continues to point to similar conclusions. While there may not be anything fancy about good health or weight loss, research consistently shows that eating a healthy, protein-rich, low carbohydrate diet along with physical activity may help people avoid many chronic illness like heart disease, diabetes and obesity.



  1. Fitzgerald, M. (2014).  The Role of Inflammation in Chronic Conditions:  Prevention, Assessment & Treatment.  Presented at AANP National Conference, Nashville, TN.
  2. Kessler, C. (2014).  Fat Chance:  A realistic “Mosaic” Approach to Weight Management.  Presented at AANP National Conference, Nashville, TN.
  3. Roberts, M.E. (2014, June 20).  An Update on the 2013 Cardiovascular Guidelines.  Presented at AANP National Conference, Nashville, TN.