More education called for after survey finds med students ‘overconfident, underprepared’ on nutrition guidelines

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

Of 257 medical students surveyed, half did not pass a nutrition quiz. ©iStock
Of 257 medical students surveyed, half did not pass a nutrition quiz. ©iStock
A study by Ohio University researchers found that out of 257 medical students surveyed, more than 55% were confident they could give nutrition recommendations, but half did not achieve the passing score on a nutrition quiz.

The study was published​ in the October edition of The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association​.

"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,"​ argued Elizabeth Beverly, PhD, the lead author of this study and assistant professor at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.

From the survey, researchers found that only 12% were aware of Dietary Reference Intakes, which the National Institutes of Health defines​ as “a general term for a set of reference values used to plan and assess nutrient intakes of healthy people.”

Study design

Researchers recruited the study participants by e-mail invitation via school-maintained listservs to first- and second-year osteopathic medical students enrolled at various campuses of the university. Participation in the study was voluntary, with an incentive of a $15 gift card.

The online survey included a short demographic form, a nutrition quiz, and six questions about the respondent’s beliefs of a primary care physician’s role in nutrition counseling, awareness of dietary reference intakes, comfort level with nutrition counseling and designing nutrition plans, understanding the role of Registered Dietitians or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist on the health care team, and perceived importance of nutrition education in medical school.

“More than 68% agreed that primary care physicians should counsel patients about nutrition”

Though more than half of the medical student respondents failed the nutrition quiz, 68% said they agreed that primary care physicians should counsel patients about nutrition.

"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,”​ Dr. Beverly added.

“To address the growing rate of obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases in the United States, osteopathic medical students would benefit from the integration of more nutrition education in the curriculum,”​ the researchers wrote in their report.

Related topics: Research, Personalized Nutrition

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