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Medical schools should be prioritising nutrition and lifestyle education
  1. Kate Womersley,
  2. Katherine Ripullone
  1. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Kate Womersley, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1TN, UK; kw310{at}

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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 nutrition education in 2008.3 A recent study of European medical schools was slightly more optimistic, suggesting that nutrition education was a requirement in 68.8% of …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests MM is vice chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners. MR advised the Department of Health and the BMA during the development of the Quality and Outcomes Framework from 2001 to 2003.

  • Presented at This article was first published in The BMJ. Cite this article as: BMJ 2017;359:j4681.