Systems Biology, Toxins, Obesity, and Functional Medicine

13th International Symposium of The Institute for Functional Medicine

Mark Hyman,MD


Mark Hyman, MD, is editor in chief of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, medical editor of  Alternative Medicine, the Art and Science of Healthy Living , and the author of several books. He is also on the Board of Advisors and faculty of Food as Medicine, Center for Mind Body Medicine, Georgetown University School of Medicine, and on the Board of Directors and faculty of the Institute for Functional Medicine, as well as collaborating with the Harvard Medical School’s Division for Research and Education in Complementary and Integrative Medicine.


Obesity is not a single clinical disorder. Obesity is a complex chronic illness resulting from the interplay among genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Emerging scientific concepts provide a new basis for understanding the multiple causes of obesity as well as the underlying mechanisms involved in weight dysregulation. While most obesity can be effectively treated for compliant patients, using a focused lifestyle intervention based on a whole-foods, low-glycemic- load, phytonutrient-rich diet combined with exercise and stress management, there are patients who do not respond predictably to normally successful interventions. A novel hypothesis linking environmental and internal toxins to disruptions of key mechanisms involved in weight regulation may explain treatment resistance in obesity.

Improving Health Care for Patientsand Health Care Delivery for Providers and Payors


The Bravewell Collaborative.


In Summary

Summit faculty concluded that our health care system must, as a matter of priority, focus on promoting and enhancing health and wellbeing, on identifying individual susceptibility, and on reducing risks for chronic disease. Dr. Snyderman said that when health problems arise, “the system should intervene early, provide the best possible care for acute events, deal effectively and holistically with chronic conditions, and ensure compassionate support for the end of life.” Fundamentally, “integrative medicine brings individuals to the center of their own care over the course of their lives,” he said. “Health risks and strengths are unique to each person. Even though, as humans, we have 99 percent of our genes in common, we differ in terms of our susceptibility to chronic disease, in our exposure to environmental conditions and in our access to and use of health-related services.” Dr. Berwick articulated the following eight principles as being central to integrative medicine:

Place the patient at the center


Individualize care

Welcome family and loved ones

Maximize healing influences within care

Maximize healing influences outside care

Rely on sophisticated, disciplined evidence

Use all relevant capacities — waste nothing

Connect helping influences with each other


Emphasizing these notions, he concluded his talk by noting that, “the sources of suffering are in separateness and the remedy is in remembering we are in this together.” It is clear that the adoption of the practices and principles of integrative medicine will transform health care, improve the health care system, reduce costs, and produce a much healthier nation better able to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.


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