Doctor Nutrition

Did Your Doctor Learn Nutrition in Medical School?

I love my doctor. Without doubt, doctors are some of my favorite people in the world. Going through medical school, residency and fellowship requires as much as a decade of intense study, long hours and incredible sacrifice. When it comes to medical information, doctors are king, but when it comes to nutrition, the story is strangely…different.

When looking for nutrition advice, most people turn to their doctor in search of the answer to a simple question, “what should I eat?” Regardless of the reason you’re asking the question in the first place, by asking your doctor this question, you make the assumption that your doctor is trained in the scientific fundamentals of nutrition.

If you’re living with diabetes, I’ll give you a 100% guarantee that you’ve asked yourself this question before, and maybe even asked your doctor in the process. When I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes 13 years ago, I had the same question, and turned to my doctor for an answer grounded in science. The result was underwhelming to say the least – not because my doctor is unintelligent, but because of the system in which he was trained.

Doctors are Well Intentioned

The overwhelming majority of doctors worldwide are well intentioned, and have a genuine desire to improve the quality of life of their patients. In the majority of cases, doctors instruct patients with prediabetes, type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes to eat a low-carbohydrate diet from the time they are first diagnosed, setting into motion a dietary pattern that lasts for many years. Many doctors go so far as to tell patients with diabetes that they cannot properly metabolize carbohydrates, and this drives patients towards foods that are high in either fat, high in protein or both.

For the past fifty years, the medical approach to treating diabetes through diet has been to limit carbohydrates and eat foods high in fat and protein. Pick up any informational pamphlet in the doctor’s office or any diabetes magazine in the grocery store and you’ll find the words low carb printed many times.

The result is that many people living with diabetes are influenced into eating a low-carbohydrate, high-fat, high-protein diet in the early stages of their diagnosis, unaware that they are actually eating themselves towards more insulin resistance and worsening health.

The unfortunate part of this situation is that the low-carbohydrate philosophy often begins immediately following diagnosis, at a time when patients are emotionally vulnerable and willing to follow any advice from a physician that can minimize their physical and emotional pain.

While low-carbohydrate diets like the Atkins diet, the Zone diet, the South Beach diet, the Bernstein diet and the Paleo diet promote short-term weight loss and reductions in fasting blood glucose values, they significantly increase your risk for heart disease, cancer and kidney disease (1). The reason these diets are recommended in the first place are because they act as a quick fix for weight loss and improved blood glucose control.

Since the 1950s, physicians themselves have perceived the total amount of nutrition education they receive in medical school to be inadequate. The fundamental problem is that they have been trained in a system that does not prioritize the value of nutrition education and instead operate in a system that is designed to prolong the disease process with a litany of pharmaceutical medications.

The result is that doctors are trained to treat diabetes and its complications using prescription medication rather than advocating evidence-based nutrition to reverse the disease process altogether.

Given that nutrition education is clearly an afterthought in medical schools across the world, it is unrealistic to believe that physicians can effectively recognize or treat root causes of insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and atherosclerosis through diet. The responsibility often falls on the patient to find alternative solutions to manage and reverse their disease.

But who is to blame for this paradox/discrepancy?

Are doctors at fault for advocating a diet that accelerates the disease process? Are nurses, CDEs and diabetes nutritionists to blame for pushing patients towards worse blood glucose control in the long term?

How Much Nutrition Does Your Doctor Know?

It turns out that doctors are not properly trained in medical school about the negative consequences of high fat diets, and therefore cannot be blamed for advocating diets that create more disease.

The unfortunate truth is that most medical schools spend no more than a few days teaching doctors about nutrition. A 2010 survey revealed that only 25% of medical schools in the US required medical students to take a nutrition course as part of their medical curriculum, resulting in an average of less than 20 hours of nutrition education in total. Of the 105 medical schools that responded to the survey, less than 30% of the schools met the minimum requirement of 25 hours of nutrition education, a standard set by the National Academy of Sciences (2,3).

In Europe the statistics are only marginally better; medical students are provided with an average of 23.6 hours of nutrition education during medical school. When asked their opinion on the adequacy of this approach, European educators responded that they were “satisfied” with this amount of nutrition education (4).

To add to this confusion, physicians are not trained on the power and efficacy of a low-fat diet in reversing insulin resistance and improving insulin sensitivity, and as a result people living with type 1 diabetes, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes are rarely presented a low-fat diet as a viable option for managing their long-term health. Adopting a low-fat diet can not only reverse insulin resistance, but reverse prediabetes and type 2 diabetes altogether. Simply addressing insulin resistance through diet is the most effective method of reversing an otherwise crippling disease process.

So What Can You Do?

So where does this leave you? If you’re like most people, your doctor may have given you basic advice on what to eat to manage diabetes. It turns out that a growing majority of people living with diabetes around the world are finding this information inadequate to manage diabetes in the long term, resulting in weight gain, fatigue and increased medication needs.

Do you find yourself confused about what to eat, relying on information from your doctor to help you manage the symptoms of diabetes? If so, just remember that doctors are excellent people that have been trained in an improperly designed system.

Is Online Group Coaching Right For You?

If you’re ready to equip yourself with the highest chance of success for improving your insulin sensitivity, now is the time to adopt a low-fat, plant-based whole foods diet. Our online group coaching programs for type 1 diabetes, prediabetes and type 2 diabetes have a 86% success rate, and are designed to fit into your lifestyle.

We provide you with education, support and accountability, and have helped hundreds of people around the world reduce their A1c, lose weight, increase their energy levels and be the most active they’ve ever been.

If now is the right time, click on the image below and sign up for a free consultation to learn more about whether an online group coaching program is right for you.

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Leave a Comment Below

In the comments below, answer the following questions: have you ever been misled by nutrition advice from your doctor? What did they say and what was the result?

References

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  1. Fuhrman J. The End of Diabetes: The Eat to Live Plan to Prevent and Reverse Diabetes. Reprint edition. HarperOne; 2014. 320 p.
  2. Adams KM, Lindell KC, Kohlmeier M, Zeisel SH. Status of nutrition education in medical schools. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Apr;83(4):941S–944S.
  3. Adams KM, Kohlmeier M, Zeisel SH. Nutrition Education in U.S. Medical Schools: Latest Update of a National Survey: Acad Med. 2010 Sep;85(9):1537–42.
  4. Chung M, van Buul VJ, Wilms E, Nellessen N, Brouns FJPH. Nutrition education in European medical schools: results of an international survey. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;68(7):844–6.
About The Author

Cyrus Khambatta

Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 22, I have spent over a decade learning the fundamentals of nutrition at the doctorate level. My goal is to share my knowledge of practical nutrition and fitness with people with prediabetes, type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Diabetes is an OPPORTUNITY to attain excellent health. Reversing the effects of insulin resistance can be a fun and enjoyable process if the right system is in place. That's why I've spent over 10 years developing a rock solid system that can minimize blood glucose variability and insulin resistance.

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