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How Much Nutrition Do Doctors Know?

Would you go to a dentist with rotting teeth? Or seek advice from a bankrupt financial planner? What about seeing a fat doctor? A new study published in the journal Obesity surveyed primary care physicians across the United States and found that overweight physicians were significantly less likely to advise their obese patients to lose weight. When doctors outweighed their obese patients, only 1 out of 10 initiated a weight loss conversation (compared to 9 out of 10 skinnier docs). Even when doctors do advise their patients on healthy eating, how much do they really know?

In my 2-minute video Do Doctors Make the Grade?, I present a study in which the nutrition knowledge of health professionals was put to the test. The results aren’t pretty, and medical education may be to blame. In my NutritionFacts.org video pick today, I show that most medical schools in the United States fail to provide even a bare minimum of nutrition training (see above).

Now if my fellow medical colleagues would just admit these shortcomings, that would be one thing, but studies show that doctors are overconfident in their knowledge and ability to counsel patients about healthy lifestyles. See my 2-minute video Doctors Know Less Than They Think About Nutrition. Unfortunately, this arrogance extends to the mainstream medical establishment.

Last year, a bill was introduced in California to mandate that physicians get continuing medical education in nutrition (see Nutrition Education Mandate Introduced for Doctors). Unbelievably, physician trade groups such as the California Medical Association came out in opposition to the bill, which would only require doctors to get a measly 7 hours of nutrition training anytime before 2017 (see Medical Associations Oppose Bill to Mandate Nutrition Training).

I document the saga using footage from the public hearings in California Medical Association Tries to Kill Nutrition Bill, ending with Nutrition Bill Doctored in the California Senate. The bill passed, but not before it was gutted.

In health,
Michael Greger, M.D.

Image credit: Gullig / Flickr

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Dr. Michael Greger

A founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Michael Greger, M.D., is a physician, author, and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. Currently Dr. Greger serves as the Director of Public Health and Animal Agriculture at The Humane Society of the United States. Hundreds of his nutrition videos are freely available at NutritionFacts.org.

71 comments

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1:49AM PDT on Jun 1, 2013

They dont listen ha...yes as in the image above. SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL AND SPEAK NO EVIL.

1:47AM PDT on Jun 1, 2013

It drives me nuts I have to say b/c a decade ago my Dr said we didnt learn vitamins of alt. med while at med school. I said to the Dr well if you want to be even better then you will have to learn more b/c more and more people are being more savvy about meds and alt med as the years tick by. Even me when I shoot back an answer and the negative reply is debilitating to say the least. Firstly I have just bought a magnet brace from my ankle and knee. She said nah there isnt any scientific evidence that it works! I said funny that b/c heaps of said it works so if it works or its in their head, Im joining them and trying it. I put them on which was for the same leg and within a half a day I felt total improvement and in fact the fluid in my left ankle/foot has disappeared. Who cares huh what science says as long as it works. It also can be like 'Pointing the bone' at someone and that person is impressionable one way or another. I have it on still but have breaks for a day and with great results but its heavy going trying to get thru that Im just hate western medications with their serious side effects which creates even more disasters. Not really sure if the dr knows the ins and outs of nutrition as I said that I was using a fresh veggie mix. The dr was angry and agitated till I took the cellophane packet and gave it too her. Sheesh even then she read and re read it a dozen times and then duh said nothing b/c i was right after all. Drives me nuts!

5:58AM PDT on May 2, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

2:25PM PDT on Apr 3, 2013

ty

4:09AM PDT on Apr 3, 2013

Blame the doctors. I'd rather them trained in what I am seeing them for and unless it's something that is related to nutrition I'm not really interested in their opinion. As for avocado's, very high in fat, but it's the good fat that actually lowers cholesterol. Why do I need a doctor to tell me that. Why would anyone see an overweight doctor?

3:47AM PDT on Apr 3, 2013

Thanks

6:05AM PST on Feb 28, 2013

My chiropractor is better at nutrition then even my diabetic doctor (but the diabetic doctor does have a traditionalist to help) -- but I have a heart doctor from Israel and he's great at nutrition! so maybe they're getting better then the old fashion doctors we used to have! thanks for information!

5:51AM PDT on Sep 28, 2012

Thanks.

1:50AM PDT on Sep 28, 2012

Thank you for sharing!

1:12AM PDT on Sep 28, 2012

I was very fortunate to have been prescribed a visit to a Dietician. It's been the best medical treatment I've ever received. I fully believe that more doctors should refer patients to dieticians for expert advice, which is also great for preventative treatment.

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