Paradoxically, several studies have shown that most physicians and other healthcare professionals receive exceedingly limited education in nutrition as part of their formal clinical training.11 Only 25% of medical schools in the United States offer a dedicated nutrition course, and few medical schools achieve the 30 hours of nutrition education recommended by the National Academy of Sciences.12 Furthermore, lack of nutrition persists even after formal training, as studies have shown that most clinicians that specialize in cardiometabolic care do not keep up to date with continuing education in nutrition.1 Dr. Devries was in full agreement with these facts as he pointed out that “unfortunately the state of nutrition education in medical training is dire, recently a study that we published in The American Journal of Medicine, which was a survey of over 600 cardiologists, showed that 90% of cardiologists reported receiving no or minimal nutrition education during their training. Interestingly, in the same survey, 95% of cardiologists reported that they felt it was their duty to at least begin the nutrition conversation with their patients”.1 At the same time, he underscored the fact that nutrition counseling needs to be a team effort rather than the sole responsibility of the physician. Participation of experts, such as registered dietitians and other nutrition professionals is of the utmost importance.
Nevertheless, clinicians may not adequately address nutrition with their patients, not only due to a lack of knowledge and training, but also due to the limited time they have to spend with each patient. Dr. Devries shared some practical pearls on how to circumvent this barrier: “given the time constraints, there are some efficient ways to make a meaningful difference with nutrition in your practice, including a quick dietary assessment that could be distributed to patients while they’re waiting in the waiting room. Physicians can then choose one nutrition topic identified by the survey to discuss for a minute or two during each clinic visit.