UK launches first University course on plant-based nutrition

Winchester University and Plant Based Health Professionals UK have collaborated to create the UK’s first plant-based nutrition university course. Delivered online, it is open to health professionals and nutrition enthusiasts from anywhere in the world, with CPD accreditation available via the BSLM. Course co-founder and DFN International Advisor Dr Shireen Kassam provides the details.

I am excited to announce that we are now taking bookings for the first University course on plant-based nutrition in the UK. The course, which is called Plant-based nutrition: a sustainable diet for optimal health, has been a team effort involving 15 UK plant-based experts, many of whom are board members of Plant-Based Health Professionals UK. You can now book onto the first course starting 5 November 2019.

How did this all come about?

I founded Plant-Based Health Professionals UK in October 2017. We are an advocacy organisation with a mission to educate health professionals, members of the public and policy makers on the benefits of whole food plant-based nutrition in preventing and treating chronic disease.

With this in mind, I realised that there was no formal, CPD-accredited course on plant-based nutrition in the UK specifically that was aimed at health professionals. I was fortunate enough to meet Professor Joy Carter, the Vice Chancellor of University of Winchester, after an introduction from a mutual friend. The University had already committed to opening a faculty of Health and Wellbeing and, in collaboration with Prof Carter and the new Faculty’s Dean, Prof Simon Jobson, the plant-based nutrition course was conceived. The new faculty opened on 1 August and the course is open for enrolment now.

How will the course work?

The Plant-based nutrition course is a fully online, 6-week, distance learning course with a combination of written material, pre-recorded lectures, quizzes to test learning and a weekly compulsory written discussion on a controversial topic. The course can be worked through in one’s own time, as long as the set content is completed each week. The course has been accredited for 15 CPD hours by the British Society of Lifestyle Medicine. At the end of the course students will be issued a certificate of completion from the University.

What is the content of the course?

Diet choices are now the top cause of death and disability globally. Not only is our diet causing ill health, it is a major factor contributing to climate destruction. A global shift to a predominantly plant-based diet is deemed necessary to preserve both human and planetary health. But what is a healthy plant-based diet? How can it be achieved? What are the benefits? This course will cover these topics in detail for those interested in improving their knowledge and expertise in the field of plant-based nutrition.

A global shift to a predominantly plant-based diet is deemed necessary to preserve both human and planetary health. But what is a healthy plant-based diet? How can it be achieved? What are the benefits?

The course will start by discussing the main dietary determinants of disease, disability and death, focusing on data from the UK and comparing with international data sets. It will discuss different types of nutrition studies and common dietary patterns. We will review the role of nutrition in promoting optimal health and wellbeing. Key components of a healthy plant-based diet will be covered, including nutrients of abundance and those that are notable for their relative absence. There will then be an in-depth review of the scientific literature supporting the role of plant-based nutrition in the prevention and treatment of chronic disease. This will include cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, cancer, dementia, obesity, bone health, women's health and gastrointestinal disorders. In the final week, comparisons will be made with other popular diet patterns, such as 'low-carb' and 'Paleo' diets, and national and international nutrition guidelines will be reviewed with analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. The connection between our diet choices and the impact on the environment will be explored and a model of sustainable farming will be presented.

For full details including a breakdown of the topics covered each week, visit the course page here.

Who should take the course?

This course is open to those in and outside the UK. It is designed for health professionals (e.g. doctors, nurses, dieticians, nutritionists, physiotherapists) who would like to incorporate evidence-based nutrition into routine clinical practice. However, the course may also be of benefit to those who are looking to improve their personal nutrition education. For those who are not health professionals, a basic knowledge of medical and nutrition terminology is required.

Although there is some focus on UK health data, the course also puts diet, nutrition and health into a global context. Most of the course is dedicated to reviewing the evidence for plant-based diet for the prevention and treatment of chronic disease and understanding what constitutes a healthy and nutritionally complete plant-based diet. So regardless of where you live and practice you will find the content current and relevant.

Next steps and how to enrol

We envisage running the course 3 times per year, with the first one starting on 5 November 2019. You can enrol for the first intake until 18 October via the Winchester University booking link here. I hope to 'see' you there!

Update: the first intake is now fully booked. The next course will start on 11 February 2020.

For more information including a link to the course tutor biographies, visit

Dr Shireen Kassam - founder of Plant Based Health Professionals UK, and Doctors for Nutrition International Advisor

More about the author

Dr Shireen Kassam serves on the Doctors For Nutrition international Advisory Council.

Read her full bio here.

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