Food for thought: Should doctors learn more about nutrition?

Should Doctors Learn About Nutrition

Let food be thy medicine”

In terms of long life, this phrase is a powerful prescription for patients. In the following video, Dr. Michael Greger explains why most doctors do not know much about nutrition, and why most  medical schools do not provide enough nutrition training. Dr Greger emphasizes on the fact that an average medical school just provides 5 hours of nutrition training to the doctors. He also explains that there is no mandate for the doctors to learn about nutrition. Most doctors today do not really discuss about diet and nutrition interventions with their patients.

The root cause of this problem usually starts with the medical training. Research indicates that less than 30% of medical schools today meet federal recommendations for nutrition education. However, it is important for doctors to know more about nutrition, as food choices can prevent risk factors for many illnesses, such as cancer. If you spend just 5 minutes of your time with patients to discuss about nutrition, it can produce long-lasting results.  “Nutrition is a core component of modern medical practice,” says Kelly M. Adams, who is a leading author and a registered dietitian.  

Proper nutrition can prevent various diseases and it is equally important for physicians to learn about effective nutritional interventions. In a recent survey of physicians, report suggests that less than 25% of them felt capable to discuss diet and exercise, and that less than one in eight visits included nutritional counseling. There have been several examples where nutrition and dietary counseling have considerably improved the condition of patients across illnesses. It has been proved that cholesterol levels were reduced by half in patients who were committed to changing their health through diet and lifestyle alterations after nutrition counseling from their doctors. Proper nutrition plays an important role in prevention and treatment of various kinds of diseases.

Many patients look up to physicians for guidance or advice on diet and physical activity. But, most doctors surveyed felt uncomfortable or are not prepared to provide nutrition counseling to their patients. This is due to the lack of knowledge of basic nutrition science facts and understanding of potential nutrition interventions. The National Academy of Sciences has recommended that medical students must get at least 25 hours of training about nutrition. Many health conditions, such as heart ailment, obesity, cancer, and stroke are related to patient diet. So, it is extremely important for patients to seek nutritional advice on how to lose weight, or how to reduce cholesterol levels. However, if the doctors are not properly trained to provide that advice – who else will?