Recent statistics show that more than two-thirds of Americans are considered to be overweight or obese. With diabetes and obesity on the rise, in addition to spikes in other lifestyle-related diseases, it has become critical to highlight the necessity of self-care and healthy living habits. Yet while physicians are generally considered to be reliable sources regarding nutrition, more than 50% of graduating medical students continue to rate their knowledge as ‘inadequate,’ and only one in eight patients receives counseling from their doctors on dietary health benefits.
A study designed to quantify the required number of hours of nutrition education at U.S. medical schools, in addition to an investigation regarding the types of courses offered, reaffirmed the supposition that medical students receive an inadequate amount of nutrition education. Only 27% of surveyed schools required a course dedicated to nutrition; on average, U.S. medical schools only offer 19.6 hours of nutrition education—across four years of medical school.
A 2016 study in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health assessed the basic nutritional knowledge of fourth-year medical and osteopathic school graduates entering a pediatric residency program. On average, the incoming interns were only able to answer 52% of the 18 questions correctly. Marion Nestle, a renowned professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, chalks much of this up to the fact that there is a primary focus on treating–rather than preventing–diseases.
Throughout the past several decades, there has been a push towards improving the medical nutrition education that students receive. With suboptimal knowledge about dietary habits, future physicians are selling both themselves and their patients very short. It is imperative to equip health practitioners with the necessary tools and information that they can utilize in their practices, ultimately addressing the root causes of real, pervasive problems.
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Earn up to 24 CME credits, live or online, with our Module dedicated to nutrition and exercise.