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Medical schools should be prioritising nutrition and lifestyle education

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 26 October 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j4861
  1. Kate Womersley, final year graduate medical student,
  2. Katherine Ripullone, final year graduate medical student
  1. University of Cambridge, UK
  1. kw310{at}

Students need to understand the role of diet in health promotion and disease prevention

Would you expect a junior doctor to be confident giving basic advice and care for the most common and fatal diseases? Of course you would. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidelines state that a first line intervention for diabetes, obesity, and high cholesterol is to give “lifestyle advice”—but this phrase is so vague that it is left up to doctors and patients to define it and, potentially, ignore it.

In 2008 and 2009, more than 75% of American junior physicians felt inadequately trained to counsel patients on diet and physical activity.1 The picture is reportedly similar in the UK.2 In Tomorrow’s Doctors, the General Medical Council requires qualifying medical students to understand the role of diet in health promotion and disease prevention, which includes being nutritionally competent. Internationally, this knowledge is lacking in medical training. Just 27% of US medical schools provided the agreed minimum of 25 hours of …

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