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General Health : Other News Last Updated: Apr 20, 2011 - 9:38:09 AM


Physicians' education on nutrition inadequate
By Ben Wasserman
Dec 13, 2008 - 11:42:29 AM

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There is a huge misconception.  That is, many patients think their physicians know nutrition. The chances are good that their physicians have not received adequate education on nutrition.

A survey of 126 U.S. medical schools accredited in 2004 showed that only 32 schools or 30 percent required a separate nutrition course although 99 out of 106 schools required some sort of nutrition education.

One average, medical students received 23.9 contact hours of nutrition instruction with a wide range from 2 to 70 hours. Only 40 percent of schools required the minimum 25 hour recommended by the National Academy of Sciences. And most instructors or 88 percent believed that their institutions need to add additional nutrition instruction.

The survey was conducted by Kelly M. Adams and colleagues of the School of Public Health University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC and published in the April 2006 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The nutrition science has advanced rapidly and the basic knowledge taught in med schools is not enough for physicians to give nutrition advice.  And it is likely that many knols of nutrition physicians learned from their schools decades ago may have to be updated.  Busy treating patients and digesting clinical guidelines, physicians are not expected to have time or even will to get updated on the nutrition advances.  After all, medicine not nutrition is what they are practicing.

Physicians need to let their physicians know that they are not trained to give out nutrition advice. And patients need to know the basic fact that physicians are not the best source of nutrition.

Nutrition is known to be important for your health.  Inadequate nutrition is the fundamental cause for many diseases if not all.  The role of nutrition has become increasingly important in the etiology of many diseases.  And prevention and treatment of many diseases may eventually rely on the understanding and applications of this science.  Unfortunately medical schools are not meant to teach their students about this critical science.  

Next time, you as a patient have some medical condition that your conventional doctors can't treat, ask for help from a nutritionist.  If the nutritionist can treat it, ask for help from a psychiatrist. If the psychiatrist cannot help you, ask for help from your pastor.  But never assume your doctors are the only help for your disease.  If your condition is not so urgent, a qualified nutritionist should be the first you try.

Remember that practicing physicians are trained to give your treatments including surgery and drugs. But they are not trained to use nutrition to treat your disease or medical condition.





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