Doctors Know Less than They Think about Nutrition

Doctors Know Less than They Think about Nutrition
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Doctors found to be overconfident in their knowledge and ability to counsel patients about lifestyle modification for chronic disease prevention.

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In failing in a test of basic knowledge on diet and coronary heart disease, doctors are failing their patients. “The current study clearly shows that there is an undeniable misalignment of health professionals’ actual and perceived lifestyle modification knowledge. Simply put, doctors say they are knowledgeable but the majority of them are not. The range of knowledge demonstrated in the study indicates that misinformation and misconceptions regarding lifestyle modification are rife among health professionals. These results are particularly disturbing since the study tested health professionals’ applied knowledge of lifestyle modification, directly providing an indication of the information that they dispense to their [chronic diseases of lifestyle] patients.”

“These perceptions lead to misplaced complacency among health professionals and explain why they do not view lack of knowledge as a barrier to counselling. Even more disturbing is the fact that they are confident in providing lifestyle modification counselling to patients, which begs the question: are patients really benefiting from the current counselling sessions?”

When the doctors were asked why they don’t counsel their patients more often on diet, exercise, and smoking cessation, they denied their main problem was lack of knowledge, nor inadequate counseling skills on their part, no. Lack of time was certainly identified as a problem, but reason number one, they blame the patients.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to aeu04117 via Flickr

In failing in a test of basic knowledge on diet and coronary heart disease, doctors are failing their patients. “The current study clearly shows that there is an undeniable misalignment of health professionals’ actual and perceived lifestyle modification knowledge. Simply put, doctors say they are knowledgeable but the majority of them are not. The range of knowledge demonstrated in the study indicates that misinformation and misconceptions regarding lifestyle modification are rife among health professionals. These results are particularly disturbing since the study tested health professionals’ applied knowledge of lifestyle modification, directly providing an indication of the information that they dispense to their [chronic diseases of lifestyle] patients.”

“These perceptions lead to misplaced complacency among health professionals and explain why they do not view lack of knowledge as a barrier to counselling. Even more disturbing is the fact that they are confident in providing lifestyle modification counselling to patients, which begs the question: are patients really benefiting from the current counselling sessions?”

When the doctors were asked why they don’t counsel their patients more often on diet, exercise, and smoking cessation, they denied their main problem was lack of knowledge, nor inadequate counseling skills on their part, no. Lack of time was certainly identified as a problem, but reason number one, they blame the patients.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Peter Mellor.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to aeu04117 via Flickr

Doctor's Note

Be sure to check out Medical School Nutrition Education, and all my other videos on the medical profession.

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31 responses to “Doctors Know Less than They Think about Nutrition

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    1. You think that’s bad? A 13 year old vegetarian girl visited her country Colombia last year. Some of the adults kept trying to force her to eat meat because they believed she was unhealthy without meat. One was her grandmother, which is understandable because that’s what you expect from seniors steeped in tradition.

      However, two young doctor friends of the family told her horrible things such as, “You can’t have a baby on a vegetarian diet.” Also, something along the lines of, “You may grow an extra limb”. And we thought the protein myth was bad. There was more, but I don’t remember. She told them that studies show that meat is connected to heart disease and cancer, and they told her, “Those scientists are lying”. In the end, she reluctantly ate some meat because they were so forceful. If that’s not child abuse, I don’t know what is.

      The good news is that her aunt went out of her way to prepare vegetarian meals and her young adult cousins supported her. Shame on those other adults and “doctors”.

      So we had a long talk and I send her links to studies such as ones from this site and other sources at least once a week. Her mom got her “Skinny Bitches” (not my style, but better than the blatant lies by those Colombian “doctors”). With all this true science and the scores of fit vegan role models I show her, armed with more veggie knowledge, she feels a lot better now and is on her way to a healthier diet and lifestyle, and peace of mind!




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  1. Happily, my husband’s cardiologist said he had gone to a lecture by Esselstyne and was persuaded that eating a whole foods plant based no added oil diet was a responsible thing to do.  He added that he couldn’t get his wife to cook that way for him.




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  2. my doctor had me on statin drugs for cholesterol and as a Fibromyalgia sufferer the statin drugs made my condition much worse.  I decided to go vegan…nothing to lose and everything to gain.  When I went back to my doctor 3 months later for a check-up and told him I was now vegan…..the first thing he asked me was “where are you getting your protein from?”  I had to sit and educate him on where I was getting my vitamins, protein, etc from.  It has been 8 months since going vegan.  I no longer have constant pain, I have lost weight and my cholesterol is now in the healthy zone.  I will never go back to eating meat or animal bi-products again as I feel terrific and I am healthy.
    Thank you so much for your wonderful video clips.  They are very helpful and help to further educate me on healthy eating.




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    1. I refused to take any medication and did the same. I lost 80 pounds, my high blood pressure disappeared and cholesterol was normal. I told my doctor it was because I went vegan. He looked at me as if I was an alien and had no comment. I haven’t been sick at all since then, 6 years and counting!!!




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  3. I would love to figure out a way to teach doctors more about nutrition from my 30 years of knowledge and experience. We know that changing what you eat can, and will, change your life.

    Great idea to blame patients. We need more doctors who say “I don’t know”.




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  4. HI, I have diverticulitis. I’ve had a colon resection but stlil have diver on the other side. I have since started taking probiotics. They seem to really help and my flares are much less. Two questions; Can probiotics with prebiotic in the diet heal the colon and is there a point where taking probiotics should stop. I also am making green smoothies which seem to make quite a difference. Thank you.




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  5. I wish I had learned more about nutrition from medical school, but I didn’t. I have taken an active interest and learned for myself about nutrition, specifically the benefits of a plant-based diet. The system has to be changed. Physicians should be taught nutrition and how to cook so they can pass this onto their patients. Some medical schools are starting this, but all need to follow. I will be starting a pediatrics practice with a teaching kitchen, vegetable garden and cooking classes for our patients. Educating patients is the only way to really help them overcome diet-related illness. But the teacher needs to be educated first.




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  6. Do you have any tips on how I might find a doctor who shares the focus of diet – maybe even a whole foods, plant-based one – as a major part of living well?




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  7. What is the preferred method on a percentage basis in regards to what the patient prefers, lifestyle counseling or prescribed pills?




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    1. I don’t know the percentage but I certainly have never received lifestyle counseling from my doctor, even when I asked for it! They would, however, refer me to a doctor for gastric bypass surgery. Insanity!

      I weighed 385 lbs and wanted help but fortunately for me, I received the help from my local YMCA weight loss group to start, then help further though an integrative medicine clinic here, vegan diet. And have since lost nearly 200 lbs. I still have a way to go.

      But I’m off all the medications I once took, etc.




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  8. I am a registered dietitian and a certified diabetes educator for a large HMO and unfortunately have many stories about doctors who have given misinformation about nutrition to patients (throughout my career). I can’t say I’ve met one that has been able to give solid evidence based nutrition advise. I don’t blame them for not knowing since it is not what they went to medical school to learn nor should they need to know the details and specifics of what to tell their patients. Their focus should be on medical assessment, diagnosis, evaluation, examination, etc. They just don’t have time either. A consult with a dietitian can take an hour for the initial visit and 30 minutes for a return. Dietitians are educated, trained specialists in medical nutrition therapy. I would not go to a kidney speciality if I had liver disease so why would I go to a doctor for nutrition advise?




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    1. I’m 71 y/o and have only met ONE (1) RD (she was a PCRM.ORG Food For Life graduate) that was not a protein prostitute. In my experience the RDs are worse than doctors: doctors don’t know squat about nutrition while (most) RDs are miseducated and gulp the JJ Kool Aid down. It is obvious that their programing is done by the meat and dairy industry. They r bought and paid for and the earn their pay. Most r overweight. The VA refuses to offer a veggie or vegan menu. How many of your colleagues recommend Drs. G, Ornish, McDougall, etc. or an 80/10/10 diet??




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      1. Hello Robert! I’m a registered dietitian and I’m so sorry to hear about your experience. I’m glad you were able to come across at least one RD that was supportive of a plant-based lifestyle! :)
        Here’s a link that might be helpful in the future: FIND A PLANT-BASED PRACTITIONER




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    2. Unfortunately, I haven’t met a dietitian that has done more than hand me a 1200 calorie diet and told me to stick to it.

      What is the point of seeing a dietitian if that’s all they do anyway?

      I’m not saying that there aren’t any dietitians out there who are trying to help their patients but I certainly don’t know where to find one!




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        1. That’s nice but unfortunately it doesn’t help me at this time because even though plant-based dietitians in my area do not accept insurance.

          That’s part B of my problem. I cannot afford to pay out of pocket at this time. Which has left me “stuck” literally in conventional medical treatment that I don’t even believe in anymore!

          I was literally on my death bed due to over-medication. Now, I’m labeled as uncooperative because I choose to research how foods might be the root, refusing prescription drugs.




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          1. Please let me know if I can assist further in the future. I monitor the website on Sunday evenings from 6-8 pm EST. Best wishes!




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  9. In all seriousness, doctors impart to patients the lifestyle norm acquired in medical schools: swallowing pharmaceuticals every day is an optimal lifestyle norm. Undesireable group norms: We visit friends, socializing over death foods is a norm.




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  10. After a very strict 7 day detox, my blood pressure was down, my chronic back pain was nearly gone, my skin was brighter, my system was alkaline and I had more energy. Why did none of the Osteopaths, Chiropractors, Physios etc tell me it could be the inflammation causing my back pain? I was talking to an acquaintance who is a GP telling him of my success. “Oh it’s the placebo effect, it’s all in your mind” was his comment.




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