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Oct 11, 2019 02:26 AM EDT

Basic Nutrition Education Not Covered in Any Medical Courses for Health Professionals

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Proper Nutrition

(Photo : Lucasbieri)

Although the human diet plays a significant role in the development and management of some chronic diseases, medical schools do not devote much time teaching proper nutrition to medical students. A new research suggests that these new doctors might have little to no knowledge about how diet has led to their patient's medical condition. Some might even be aware that diet can help alleviate their patient's condition. 

The researchers gathered data from 24 published articles that covered students' knowledge of nutrition. They carefully looked into the confidence level of these medical students to counsel their patients regarding proper nutrition. Overall, the study found that medical education does not sufficiently incorporate nutrition regardless of year of education, setting, or country. 

Jennifer Crowley, a researcher on nutrition and dietetics from the University of Auckland in New Zealand revealed that insufficient knowledge on nutrition greatly impacts the skills, knowledge, and confidence in providing a holistic approach in patient care. When students don't see their seniors providing nutrition counseling on patients, they don't consider it as part of providing excellent patient care. 

This also leads future doctors to miss out on emphasizing to their patients the importance of eating right for a healthy, disease-free life. She fears that when this aspect of nutrition is not reinforced, patients have a huge tendency to actually forget that their diet plays a role in their medical condition. 

Since 1975, the rate of obesity among patients have tripled all over the world. As of 2016, around 650 million adults and 381 million children and teens are considered obese worldwide. 

While there may be other factors to be considered. The increasing rate of obesity among young and adult patients is simply alarming. Diet and physical inactivity are the two basic reasons why people become obese. They eat more than their body uses up energy; thus, they accumulate body fat. Their diet usually included foods rich in sodium, sugar, and carbohydrates. This is the problem according to the reports by the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Obesity has been listed as one of the major causes of disability and death worldwide. Diabetes, arthritis, and heart diseases, among others, are just a few of the chronic illnesses that come as a result of poor nutrition. 

Despite initiatives to include nutrition in the education of future doctors, the study also found that efforts alone have a modest effect on medical students. The team reported that the students who were observed and interviewed during the study already feels confident enough that they can provide nutrition-related advice to their patients in the future. 

Ideally, medical schools should be producing graduates who are knowledgeable about weight management and proper nutrition. This will allow them to steer patients to the direction of the right specialist should they need to improve on their medical condition. More importantly, it is a necessity if the doctors have any hope of helping their patient make lifestyle changes as needed, the researchers argue.

Dr. Stephen Devries, author of the editorial that came with the study, believes that this type of study matters as it reveals the kind of medical help that patients can expect and receive. He further emphasizes that if physicians do not receive meaningful education on nutrition, how can patients expect them to give health care that is beyond the books and the machines?

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