Study: Medical students underprepared on nutrition guidelines

Prior research shows doctors who are overly confident are less likely to seek additional resources and more likely to misdiagnose patients.
By Amy Wallace  |  Oct. 16, 2017 at 4:47 PM
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Oct. 16 (UPI) -- A study from Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine found most medical students are overconfident, underprepared on nutrition guidelines.

The National Academy of Science recommends 25 hours of nutrition education for doctors, but several studies have shown most medical schools do not meet this goal.

Researchers surveyed 257 medical students and found more than 55 percent were confident they could counsel patients on nutritional guidelines, however, half did not get a passing score on a nutrition quiz.

The study, published in the October edition of the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, found that only 12 percent of the medical students surveyed were aware of Dietary Reference Intakes, or DRIs, which are a guide to differentiated nutrition requirements.

These results were found even though 68 percent believed primary care physicians should counsel patients about nutrition.

"There is a long-standing disconnect in medicine. Nutrition is understood to be integral to overall health, but it is not given serious attention in physician education," Elizabeth Beverly, assistant professor at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, said in a press release.

"The lack of knowledge about dietary reference intakes, which tell physicians what kind of nutrient and energy intake their patients need, is concerning because the guidelines vary dramatically by age, sex, and other factors, like pregnancy and disease."

Previous studies suggest overly confident doctors are not as likely to seek additional resources and more likely to misdiagnose patients.

"Medical schools are focused on preparing students to pass board certification exams. Currently, nutrition knowledge is not evaluated by most certification boards," Beverly said. "If we can change that, schools will adjust their curriculum accordingly and we should ultimately see an improvement in patient education and care."

Researchers recommend nutrition-related competencies including nutrition questions on board certification examinations to ensure that medical schools stick to the minimum number of hours of nutrition education.

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