While doctors are vitally important to our medical system, most do not have adequate training in nutrition issues. A study published in Academic Medicine in 2010 found that while most schools require “some form” of nutrition education, only 25% of medical schools required a dedicated nutrition course. The average medical student received only 19.6 hours of nutrition instruction during their medical school careers.
This being said, there are always exceptions to the rule – there are doctors who specialize in obesity related issues and pursue additional training in nutrition. Yet, why ignore dietitians who have pursued careers and been trained specific to the field of nutrition?
Not to mention that doctors are already pressed for time with patients – adding intensive nutritional counseling to their plate is likely an unrealistic expectation for many. We certainly don’t want this to turn into a quick lecture about losing weight that gets billed as obesity counseling, followed by a patient not losing weight because they still do not understand how to make behavior changes. This gets viewed as a failure of the program and will ultimately undermine the entire concept of nutrition and fitness counseling.
I’m not saying that dietitians are the only person important to the fight against obesity. We certainly need many partners involved in this, both inside and outside of the medical realm. Doctors, dietitians, food manufacturers, city planning workers, government, school lunch programs, etc – it will take a societal shift involving all these partners before we see major reductions in the rates of overweight and obesity. But at an individual nutrition counseling level, there is no doubt that dietitians need to be part of the solution.
Would you ask a physical therapist to put a cast on for a broken leg? How about going to a speech therapist for psychological counseling? We need to support professionals appropriate for the job if we want desired results. For intensive nutrition counseling, that means a registered dietitian.
And now I’ll step off my soap box for today. The take home message: seek out an RD when you need help with your diet. We can help you!