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25 March 2018 - BBC - Doctors Learn Nothing About Nutrition


Medical students say they currently learn almost nothing about the way diet and lifestyle affect health - and they should be taught more.


As this article makes clear, most doctors still receive very little education or training in the importance of nutrition and diet, despite the fact that this is a key factor affecting the health conditions for which the vast majority of their patients want their help.

For more information on how some doctors and medical students are working to change this, listen to the related issue of Radio 4's Food Programme: Doctor's Orders: Getting Tomorrow's Medics Cooking.

See also the recent blog from Nutritank - a new organisation set up by medical students campaigning for more teaching of nutrition in medical education and training:
While these articles are focused mainly on the role of nutrition in common physical health disorders like Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, food and diet are similarly fundamental to mental health and development. See:
FAB Research is committed not only to raising awareness of the fundamental role of nutrition in brain development and function, but also to improving the education and training of all professionals working in health and allied areas.

If you would like to help us in this mission, please join FAB Research, and/or contact us if you or your organisation are interested in hosting talks, workshops or other events, or would like to book one of our highly experienced speakers for an event of your own.

Medical students say they currently learn almost nothing about the way diet and lifestyle affect health - and they should be taught more.

They say what they are taught is not practical or relevant to most of the medical problems they see in GP surgeries, clinics and hospitals.

A leading GP estimated that up to 80% of his patients had conditions linked to lifestyle and diet. These included obesity, type 2 diabetes and depression.

Why does this lack of training matter?

This year the NHS will spend more than £11bn on diabetes alone - social care costs, time off work etc, will almost double that bill.

Type 2 diabetes - the most common kind - is linked to obesity. And right now Britain is the fat man of Europe.

Training too traditional

But doctors are not being trained to deal with what medics call non-communicable diseases - and it's those kind of illnesses that are threatening to bankrupt our health system, so a new kind of training is crucial.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's The Food Programme, Dr Rangan Chatterjee, GP and presenter of BBC One's Doctor in the House, told me: "The health landscape of the UK has dramatically changed over the last 30 or 40 years and I think the bulk of what I see as a GP now - almost 80% - is in some way driven by our collective lifestyles."

Dr Michael Mosley, presenter of BBC One's Trust Me I'm A Doctor, said, "Unfortunately it's not part of the traditional training. At medical school I learnt almost nothing about nutrition. And I have a son at medical school and it's again not part of his key curriculum.

"So I don't get the sense that there are lots of doctors out there who feel empowered to tell patients much about nutrition."

A hotbed of the new revolution is Bristol University where, in 2017, third year medical students Ally Jaffee and Iain Broadley founded Nutritank.

It's an online organisation created for and by medical students to share nutrition science research and organises events and lectures on campus. This summer, it will welcome GP, author and podcast host Dr Rupy Aujla to Bristol to lead the first UK course in culinary medicine for medical students.

From one society in Bristol, Nutritank has now spread to 15 other student-led groups at universities across the country.

'It's time'

Ally Jaffee said: "There's just about a society at medical school in everything from sexual health to orthopaedics to dermatology. But there just wasn't a nutrition and lifestyle or a preventative medicine society.

"We're taught about 10 to 24 hours over five to six years in medical school on nutrition."

This month, the British Medical Journal announced it will launch a journal on the science and politics of nutrition in June 2018.

Dr Fiona Godlee, editor-in-chief of the BMJ, told me, "It's time we recognised that food and nutrition are core to health. There is a growing body of research out there that needs to be published - and we want to contribute to that effort."

She said the same levels of quality and scrutiny should be applied to food science that are applied to other areas of health research.

The BMJ's announcement follows an opinion piece it published in October 2017 written by two University of Cambridge graduate medical students, Kate Womersley and Katherine Ripullone.

Kate said: "I was in an obesity clinic as part of my medical shadowing.

"A patient came in and said very frankly to the doctor, the consultant in charge, 'Why am I so fat?'.

"The patient was asking a very straightforward question and I think was expecting a straightforward answer. But often that's a question where doctors seem to clam up a bit.

"We were interested to write this piece for the BMJ, because we didn't feel prepared to be receiving that question."