Saturday, March 14, 2015

Why Your Doctor May Not Give The Best Nutritional Advice

Picture by DES Daughter from Flickr
While doing some research on the Mediterranean-style diet (that will probably be another post), I came across and read with interest an article in the Chicago Tribune. Of the many, many thousand hours that doctors spend training to become doctors, only 19 of those are devoted to studying nutrition.

Not surprising then that a study from the Journal of American College of Nutrition shows that 14 % of internal medicine interns feel they can talk adequately to their patients although 94 % feel it's their responsibility to do so.

Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against doctors nor do I claim to be an expert in nutrition. How can I be since I love eating chips and drinking Coke (although I very seldom indulge now after my accident).

For most people I know, doctors are their gatekeepers to health information. They know doctors are educated in their profession and are generally trustworthy. It seems then that a doctor's advice must be reliable. I guess some people think curing diseases/ illnesses" is the same as preventing diseases/ illnesses.

Let me be clear here though, my opinion is that this is a failing of the medical educational system and not the fault of our doctors.

One of medicine's basic tenets: "First do no harm." So doctors must make sure any treatment must not make a patients's condition worse. For nutrition, this usually translates into standard dietary advice.

Let me give you an example. A doctor is faced with the choice of giving a recommendation that's in line with the status quo such as limiting sodium (or salt) intake, or go against the norm by saying that you don't have to worry about salt intake.The doctor will usually avoid controversy and just say limit salt intake.

Also among other obstacles? In the same Chicago Tribune article, it is suggested that "many physicians are overweight themselves and may feel uncomfortable talking about healthy diet and physical activity when they themselves struggle with similar issues."

When faced with conflicting information, most of us deal with it in different ways. Some like my wife (bless her) are self-learners, they read voraciously until they can navigate through the noise. Most people may just default to someone they trust to tell them what to do.

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