The Importance of Nutrition in Medical Education


Does your doctor talk to you about nutrition?

Well, the truth is, most physicians DON’T tackle nutrition with their patients. Physicians often don’t have enough time during their patient visit to adequately address all of the lifestyle choices that make us healthier plus collect a complete history, perform an exam, make the necessary assessment and provide their patient with a good treatment plan .

But could there be another reason physicians are not tackling nutritional counseling with their patients?  They may not have received adequate nutrition training in medical school or residency training to do this themselves.  This is a problem in the modern era of health and wellness.

Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and Nutrition Education

Obesity is at epidemic levels in the United States. A third of Americans are obese, while ⅔ are overweight [1]. Three quarters of all healthcare dollars are spent on lifestyle related disease [1].  And roughly $315 billion each year is spent on heart disease alone.

Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), an entirely preventable disease, is also at epidemic proportions with up to ⅓ of all children born after 2000 expected to develop T2D at some point in their lives [1].

In 1994, over 60% of newly minted physicians felt they received adequate training in nutrition and the numbers haven’t changed much in the decades since then [2]. In 2008, a study reported that only 14% of physicians felt they received adequate nutritional education during their undergraduate years [3]. A 2015 article revealed that only 25% of medical schools offered the minimum recommended 25 hours of nutrition education while on average most schools offered less than 20 hours total.

H2PRO™’s Dr. B. received his nutrition training before medical school and was a practicing Registered Dietitian. Dr. B. has been using nutritional therapies in his medical practice and advocating for medical nutrition in his local hospital for more than 30 years. All while advocating for more nutrition education in medical school and residency training throughout his career.

BAM! Culinary Education and the New Wave of Medical Education

It just so turns out that the BIGGEST predictor of whether physicians offer nutritional advice to their patients are the personal lifestyle choices and practices of the physician themselves [1].  Also, countries with the most home cooks, such as Italy and France, have the lowest obesity rates [1].

The combination of these statistics has resulted in a new approach to educating about nutrition in medical schools. BAM! Culinary medical education initiatives.

In 2006, the Culinary Institute of America partnered with the Harvard School of Public Health and the Samueli Institute to create a continuing education program to teach cooking and nutrition to medical professionals [1].

This exciting new idea combines traditional teaching methods, like lecturing, with hands-on experiences cooking and learning nutritional counseling techniques. Suddenly new programs are popping up at medical schools like the Geisel Medical School at Dartmouth and Tulane Medical School, seeking to combine cooking skills with nutritional education.

Other new models to implement more nutrition education include a free online curriculum offered by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where students and physicians can learn nutrition using an online format [3]. And some have suggested that nutrition classes become a pre-med requirement so that students are nutritionally aware before they start medical school [3].

So, it looks like we may be heading in a better direction.

Nutrition Solutions for Change

At H2PRO™ we take nutrition seriously, and are encouraged to see that the landscape of medical education may be changing, albeit slowly.  However, long term success and public health improvement depends on the commitment of medical schools and physicians to actively address nutrition in their own lives as well as in the lives of their patients.  We hope these culinary education initiatives bear fruit.

 

Love Your Guts, Learn to Cook.

 

 

Citations

1 – Eisenberg, David M. et al. (2015) Nutrition Education in an Era of Global Obesity and Diabetes: Thinking Outside the Box. Academic Medicine: 90 (7), 854–860.

2 – Taren, TL et al. (2001) Effect of an integrated nutrition curriculum on medical education, student clinical performance, and student perception of medical-nutrition training.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 73 (6), 1107-1112.

3 – Devries, Steven et al. (2014) Deficiency of Nutrition Education in Medical Training. American Journal of Medicine 127 (9), 804–806.

 

 

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