Hargrove EJ, Berryman DE, Yoder JM, Beverly EA. Assessment of Nutrition Knowledge and Attitudes in Preclinical Osteopathic Medical Students. J Am Osteopath Assoc 2017;117(10):622–633. doi: 10.7556/jaoa.2017.119.
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Nutrition is often overlooked in everyday health care despite the definitive connection between diet and health. Many practicing physicians and medical students feel unqualified to discuss specific dietary recommendations with patients, which may be attributed to inadequate nutrition education during medical school.
To assess the nutrition knowledge of osteopathic medical students and their attitudes regarding the importance of nutrition counseling in their future role as practicing physicians.
Using a descriptive, cross-sectional study design, the authors evaluated first- and second-year osteopathic medical students’ nutrition knowledge and attitudes toward nutrition counseling. A questionnaire that assessed attitudes toward nutrition counseling and a quiz that tested nutrition knowledge were used.
A total of 257 first-year (n=139) and second-year (n=118) medical students (mean [SD] age, 24.8 [3.4] years; 52.8% female and 78.2% white) completed the quiz and survey. The average score of the nutrition knowledge quiz was 69.5%, with 130 participants (50.6%) scoring below the school's passing rate of 72.5%. Second-year students performed better than first-year students on the quiz (mean, 74.2% vs 65.9%; t=−5.17; P<.001). The majority of participants (143 [55.6%]) felt comfortable counseling patients on nutrition recommendations; however, only 30 (11.9%) were aware of the current dietary reference intakes. Qualitatively, most participants acknowledged the importance of providing patient education, promoting overall health and wellness, and preventing and treating disease.
The majority of participants felt comfortable counseling future patients on nutrition recommendations; however, most participants lacked knowledge of dietary reference intakes and medical nutrition therapy. Because half of osteopathic medical students typically enter primary care, students and their future patients would benefit from the integration of more nutrition education in medical school.
a Data presented as No. (%) unless otherwise indicated.
b Three responses were missing for ethnicity; 2 responses were missing for community participant grew up in, year in medical school, campus, and planning on a career in primary care; 10 responses were missing for previous nutrition course in undergraduate or graduate education. Participants who answered all questions did not differ by any variable compared with participants who did not complete all questions.
c Not applicable. At the time of this survey, distant campus 2 did not have any second-year osteopathic medical students.
a Select questions presented. Quiz questions adapted from Vetter et al.16
b Responses were missing for Q1 (n=17); Q4 (n=18); Q8 (n=18); Q9 (n=18); Q10 (n=18); Q10 (n=17); Q11 (n=18); Q18 (n=19); Q19 (n=18); Participants who answered all questions did not differ by any variable compared to participants who did not complete all questions.
c Correct answers are boldface.
Abbreviation: LDL, low-density lipoprotein.
a Select questions presented.
b Responses were missing for the following questions: awareness of DRIs (n=9); comfortable counseling patients on nutrition recommendations (n=9); comfortable developing nutrition plan for patient (n=9). Participants who answered all questions did not differ by any variable compared to participants who did not complete all questions. Questions included a text entry option for students to explain why they thought nutrition education in medical school was important and the role of a registered dietitian.
As a physician, you are the person that people will go to for information on nutrition first. The likelihood that a person will see a nutritionist before asking their PCP questions is minimal. It is important that the physician knows what they are talking about and can provide help.
It is the basis of our osteopathic education to get the body in the most prime shape to fix/preserve itself and nutrition is a large part of that.
I think nutrition education needs to be much more valued in medical school because of where our country is in terms of morbidity and mortality, it comes down to chronic disease conditions that can be prevented with lifestyle.
Nutrition is the most basic form of medical therapy. Improper nutrition accounts for many of the preventable diseases we will encounter regularly in our practice.
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