Let me ask you this first; have you ever gone to your doctor as a result of any of the following:
feeling chronically ill
getting bad blood test results
and then asked for or were given nutrition advice from your doctor?
I’m sorry to say it, but there’s a good chance that you were given poor advice.
The Case Against Doctors Giving Nutrition Advice
Going to University allowed me to meet a lot of intelligent people. Some of the brightest were studying in order to go to medical school and become various types of physicians.
Here’s the traditional job definition from Wikipedia:
“A physician is a professional who practices medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury, and other physical and mental impairments.”
I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t good nutrition part of promoting, maintaining or restoring human health?”, and you’re right, it is.
The problem, I contend, is that the majority of physicians do not have the knowledge or experience to give proper nutritional guidance.
How Physicians are Trained
Medical school is arguably the toughest program to get accepted to, and once you’re in it’s no cakewalk. However, medical schools currently do not prepare students (future doctors) in nutrition to anywhere close to an acceptable level.
This graph on the right shows the main results of a survey conducted in 2004 by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They sent the 12 question survey out to the 126 accredited medical schools in the United States and received 106 responses.
The key finding that I’m interested in is shown in the graph, which is the amount of contact hours a typical student receives in nutrition during their time at the school. The national average came out to be 23.9 hours.
The average doctor has less than a day’s worth of time spent learning nutrition. I routinely spend more than that reading journals and nutrition-related books in a week.
How are you possibly supposed to learn everything you need to know about proper nutrition in less than a day? The answer, you can’t.
Not only that, but how much of those 24 hours of nutrition training will they remember? Not many in all likelihood unless they continually review them.
The Experience of a Physician
Doctors are amazing at discovering what is wrong with people. They see sick and injured people all day, and over time they become extremely good at recognizing the problems and treating them.
The problem is, that healthy people don’t often go to see doctors. What this leads to, is that the average doctor knows what doesn’t work in regards to human health, but they don’t know what does work.
It wouldn’t be fair to call out all physicians for having poor knowledge in nutrition. There are certainly a small percentage who spend a significant amount of their own time educating themselves so that they can provide good nutritional advice.
The bonus here is that most physicians have a really good understanding of biology, and once sufficiently educated, they really know how to tie everything together.
Some well-known doctors go as far as to have their own nutrition blogs, like Peter Attia.
Don’t overestimate the knowledge that a doctor has just because they are in a position of prestige and authority.
If your doctor gives you nutrition advice, it doesn’t hurt to consult other sources for second and third opinions. Ask questions and do your own research/education as needed so you can take your health into your own hands.
If you have any experience with doctors and nutritional advice that you would like to share, leave a comment below.