MDs and Nutrition

January 29, 2019 in General, Nutrition, Uncategorized by Joyce Bunderson

Can you believe we almost polished off the first month of 2019? It seems to fly by, doesn’t it? On December 6, 2018 an article was published by Jason Fung MD, What Your Doctor Doesn’t Know About Nutrition. I’ve known for decades about this issue regarding the lack of real training in nutrition of the medical schools, and was impressed with Dr. Fung’s article enough to save it for this week’s post. I still remember when I had recently graduated from UCLA with my Master’s in Public Health Nutrition. I worked with two physicians. I still recall my frustration at learning that one of the physicians was telling my patients, that they should go to Sizzler and eat the all-you-can-eat breaded fried shrimp; and other invalid directives. Regarding Fung’s article, the fact that it is written by a medical doctor was especially gratifying for me. I especially like these comments: “As a result, doctors can be trained to believe that nutrition and weight loss are simply not part of the problems they deal with or should care about.” Also, “What drugs or surgery should I give to patients after they have their heart attack?” And lastly, “Should you talk to your doctor about weight loss? Would you ask your plumber to remove your wisdom teeth?”

When you go to a physician, you want him to be secure in his knowledge of medicine. Unfortunately, that issue sometimes get scrambled with a physician feeling that he needs to know everything about every branch of health; and then giving advice that he’s not really qualified to be giving. Certainly, many physicians have reconciled their lack of nutrition training wisely and refer their patients to Registered Dietitians., but many others have not.

The fact is, that there is a group of educated competent professionals who are qualified to help the physicians, and of course, their patients, with nutrition. Registered Dietitians, spend at the very minimum, four years in obtaining their degrees and registration. Actually, I don’t know anyone who can get through the programs in four years, without attending summers. Master’s degrees in nutrition are very common with Registered Dietitians. In addition, many of us have doctoral degrees, also. It would be extremely difficult for those who design the training for medical doctors to add all that is taught to Registered Dietitians to the MD’s training. That’s the way it is for many areas of study in the health professions. So much more is known now, that specialty fields are needed to study and do the work. Dietitian’s have an extremely large variety of specialties within their field alone. Not in the least, are the skills that help translate the very complex field of scientific nutrition to everyday language to help individuals and groups understand and learn skills that support being well nourished. In addition, there are almost endless niche specialties, for those with special nutritional needs.

Ultimately, I agree with Dr. Fung. I don’t believe that you should go to a medical doctor if you need help with your diet. Find a Registered Dietitian who is specifically trained in whatever your need is.