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Food Analogies can help Teach Medicine

Update Date: Jul 10, 2014 01:50 PM EDT

Medical jargon can be difficult to understand and learn, which is why medical professionals often use food analogies when describing certain health conditions. In a new article, researchers reported that using food to help describe medical terms could ease the learning process for medical students. The report listed 46 popular medical terms that are related to food.

"The non-medical reader may perceive this usage variably as amusing, bizarre or even revolting," lead author of the report, Ritu Lakhtakia, a pathologist at Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman said to USA Today. "These metaphors at no stage belittle the patient's suffering. They are aimed at improving the learning process of a budding physician [and making medical education a little more] alive and stimulating."

Some of the lesser-known terms include strawberry cervix, watermelon stomach, blueberry muffin rash, chocolate cyst, rice-water stools, spaghetti and meatballs and anchovy sauce. Even though some of these names seem ridiculous, the report explained that these terms could really help students learn how to identify symptoms of different kinds of infections and diseases. Furthermore, memorizing fun terms with culinary roots might be a lot easier than memorizing long, scientific terms.

"A host of references to the aromas, shape, color and texture of food have reinforced and stimulated generations of physicians to identify and understand disease," Dr. Lakhtakia wrote. "It is time to revisit this powerful tool and secure its place in medical teaching and records."

She added, according to LiveScience, "A part of this curious tradition may owe its origins to practicing physicians and researchers catching up on their meals in clinical side rooms or operating theatre offices, or with an inevitably cold platter eaten with eyes glued to a microscope. Whatever the genesis, these time-honored allusions have been, and will continue to be, a lively learning inducement for generations of budding physicians."

The article was published in the journal, Medical Humanities.

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