Nutrition education for medical doctors


Here’s a question for any Veg Blog readers that are medical doctors or training to become medical doctors: how big of a role does nutrition play in your education?

The reason I ask is that I recently went to my doctor’s for a physical. I don’t have a regular doctor at this office and, in fact, I think I’ve seen just about everyone on the staff at one point or another. This time around, I had a nurse practitioner who did my physical. She’s rather young, I’m estimating maybe 26 or 27, and so I thought perhaps when I mentioned that I had moved to almost an entirely vegan diet, that she would have some knowledge and understanding about the issues involved with giving up meat, dairy, and eggs. Unfortunately, the first question out of her mouth was, “How do you get your protein?” At this point in time, I would hope that people coming into the medical field would bypass that question and go to something more applicable like, “Are you taking supplements for B12?” or “Are you careful about getting all your Omega-3s?” I went on my short diatribe about how protein’s not much of an issue and that I get plenty from a number of sources. She did ask if I take any supplements and I told her that generally my diet’s pretty well-rounded, but that I use nutritional yeast regularly and will take a vegetarian multi-vitamin if I feel I haven’t been eating as well as I should.

While I was a bit disappointed by the protein question, she also showed some interest when she asked why my reason was for being vegetarian/almost vegan. In addition, she didn’t shake her head in disapproval or show any sort of serious concern that I was depriving myself. Indeed, she actually checked off the “healthy diet” box on my physical form, which pleased me.

The way I understand it, nutrition has always been glossed over when it comes to medical training, and I was wondering if there’s any sort of trend in the opposite direction, stressing diet and lifestyle education so that MDs aren’t always so quick to recommend drugs.

4 Responses to “Nutrition education for medical doctors”

  1. johanna

    i’m not a doctor, but i thought i’d share my similar experience–i went to a new doctor some months ago & he was really astonished @ my low cholesterol. he said it was the first time he’d ever had a patient “w/more good cholesterol than bad cholesterol!” he asked if i exercised a ton (no), etc. & when i told him i suspected it was because i ate virtually no dairy, he immediately launched into a “what do you eat? just vegetables? you ONLY eat vegetables?” thing. *sigh* he was fairly young, too. so disappointing!

  2. Melanie

    I’m a vegan registered dietitian who works in a hospital. I also have several friends completing residencies to become doctors. I can say that my friends had maybe a “unit” devoted to nutrition but really not a big focus. A few docs I encounter default to the dietitians because it’s our specialty but some even think they have more knowledge than us (who went to school for 4+ years *strictly* devoted to nutrition.

  3. Bert

    Thanks for bringing more awareness to this topic. I’ve had some great doctors but it was always a little unusual that they didn’t seem to put a lot of emphasis on healthy eating and habits, and staying well. I’m learning more about it and thanks again.

  4. Krista

    This was years ago, but when we moved to our current area my hubby got a new doctor right away because he has Type I diabetes. His new doc asked him to consult with a dietitian, especially because we had just started being vegetarian. I went with him to the appointment and I was teaching the dietitian about veg*anism! Good grief, that’s pathetic.

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