Why medical schools need to teach nutrition

Medical schools should place a greater emphasis on meaningful nutrition education, according to a new Viewpoint article in JAMA co-authored by Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The March 21, 2019 article noted that, on average, medical schools devote only 19 hours of a four-year curriculum to nutrition. Moreover, medical schools tend to focus on nutrition topics such as vitamin deficiency states, which is shortsighted given that diseases related to vitamin deficiencies aren’t a major problem in the U.S. Even after medical school, clinicians have very little exposure to nutrition-focused education throughout their careers, according to the article.

The authors noted that while many topics deserve greater attention in medical training, nutrition stands out as a priority area given that poor-quality diet is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and that patients are frequently exposed to often contradictory nutrition messages in the media. Additionally, focusing on nutrition aligns with the current shift in medicine from disease management toward health promotion and prevention.

Read the JAMA Viewpoint article: Nutrition Education in Medical School, Residency Training, and Practice