How much do doctors learn about nutrition in medical schools?

Confused doctor © vchalup2

Confused doctor © vchalup2

While bad nutrition advice from federal authorities has been chalked up to corporate influence, bad advice from the medical profession more likely arises out of ignorance. What is the status of nutrition education in medical schools?

Back in 1980, less than a quarter of medical schools required a single course on nutrition. By 1981, though, we were up to 32%, then 37%, then slipping to 35%, and back down to 27% by 1984. That was a quarter-century ago, though—back in the dark ages. What about 20 years later, in 2004?

In a survey sent to all U.S. medical schools, we went from 27% in 1984 all the way up to—30%. There was more nutrition education in 1982! On average, out of thousands of hours of preclinical instruction, doctors get about 24 hours of nutrition, with most getting only 11 to 20.

Last year, we got an update: “Nutrition Education in U.S. Medical Schools: Latest Update of a National Survey.” In 2004, we were at 30%, and now we’re at 25%—nearly the lowest ever recorded. Only a quarter of medical schools require a single course on nutrition.

They conclude in their 2010 paper: “The teaching of nutrition in U.S. medical schools still appears to be in a precarious position, lacking a firm, secure place in the medical curriculum of most medical schools.” They advocate for, at a minimum, “the 25 hours of nutrition education needed to properly train physicians.”

Currently, only a small fraction reach even that trifling standard. And even if they did, that means you could learn everything a “properly trained” doctor knows about nutrition in one long weekend.

This article has been reprinted from the website with permission from the NutritionFacts team. This article has been exclusively first published on – a strictly non-commercial, science-based public service providing free updates on the latest in nutrition research.

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