Just this week Medscape featured an article arguing there’s a need for all doctors (GPs & specialists) to undergo nutritional training.  It follows on from a commentary in the September issue of the American Journal of Medicine which criticised the deficiency of nutrition education in medical training, particularly in the context of the 2013 report on US health that “identified dietary factors as the single most significant risk factor for disability and premature death”. An interview with one of the lead authors of this paper, Stephen Devries, a cardiologist with 25 years’ experience, forms the basis of the article.  He reflects that his own training which involved 3 years of internal medicine residency and 4 years of cardiovascular fellowship training, failed to provide any nutrition education and notes that nothing has really changed, with the current 4yr medical undergraduate degree devoting just 20hrs to nutrition – which primarily focuses on rare nutritional deficiency states.  Devries makes the point that because this information is never reinforced later in training, any potential value is lost anyway.

 “It struck me as a peculiar paradox that clinical practice guidelines highlight the primary importance of nutrition and lifestyle, yet the physicians who are expected to implement these guidelines receive absolutely no education in these areas during their residency and subspecialty training.”

It’s great to see this debate hit the front page, so to speak, and it reminds me of something Ian Brighthope always said – studying veterinary science before he entered medicine he was shocked to find that with medical studies suddenly the topic of nutrition fell by the wayside, a key focus in the health of animals but apparently not so important for humans!

The Medscape article goes on to discuss whether GPs knowing about nutrition is effectively doubling up, given that there are dieticians & nutritionists (& naturopaths ! 😉 ) out there who are specifically trained to provide nutritional education & treatment but Devries argues:

“First of all, it’s important to acknowledge that nutrition is a group effort and that patients can benefit from a wide range of health experts — including dietitians, nutritionists, and nurses – to help with dietary concerns. And certainly it’s not realistic to expect that doctors will be able to take the time for detailed nutritional tasks…Nevertheless, a solid foundation of nutritional knowledge will empower physicians to emphasize to patients that nutrition is a priority, and to encourage patients that the food-based “medicine” they consume is just as vital to their health plan as their medication. When it is apparent that nutrition is a priority for the doctor, it becomes a greater priority for the patient…”

I think I’ve just found my new hero! :)

Check out the article in full – it’s an uplifting read http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/830697?nlid=65023_1842&src=wnl_edit_medp_wir&uac=76835EJ&spon=17