Image Credit: Gullig / Flickr. This image has been modified.

Nutrition Education in Medicine: a Doctor a Day Keeps the Apples Away

This month in the journal Academic Medicine yet another editorial was published decrying the sorry state of nutrition knowledge in medical education, a problem diagnosed yet untreated for the last 50 years. What is the profession doing about it? This morning’s NutritionFacts.org video-of-the-day Medical Associations Oppose Bill to Mandate Nutrition Training exposes the fact that many mainstream medical organizations are actively opposing and lobbying against mandating more nutrition for doctors. This, despite the fact that most medical schools in the United States fail to provide even a bare minimum of nutrition training.

Thirty years ago, only about a third of medical schools required a single course on nutrition. That number has since dropped to only 1 in 4, as I showed in Wednesday’s Medical School Nutrition Education. No wonder doctors get failing grades in tests of basic nutrition knowledge about diet and heart disease, our #1 killer. More disturbing, the percentage of medical instructors that think this deficiency is a problem has also dropped over the last decade. In Thursday’s Doctors Know Less Than They Think About Nutrition, I profile a study that suggests arrogant overconfidence may play a role, concluding: “Simply put, doctors say they are knowledgeable but the majority of them are not.”

According to a review published last month in Nutrition in Clinical Practice, “virtually every published study about physicians and nutrition counseling showed that primary care physicians…were not delivering nutrition services to their patients.” There was one study of thousands of patient visits to more a hundred family physicians that measured how much nutrition advice they were offering. The average per visit? Less than 10 seconds.

Starting last Friday and continuing through this Thursday, I document Dr. John McDougall‘s quixotic battle against mainstream medicine to mandate even just a few hours of nutrition education for our colleagues.

-Michael Greger, M.D.

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Michael Greger M.D., FACLM

Michael Greger, M.D. FACLM, is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally recognized professional speaker on a number of important public health issues. Dr. Greger has lectured at the Conference on World Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, and the International Bird Flu Summit, testified before Congress, appeared on The Dr. Oz Show and The Colbert Report, and was invited as an expert witness in defense of Oprah Winfrey at the infamous "meat defamation" trial.


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