Should You Trust Your Doctor’s Nutrition Advice?Dec 13, 2021
by Doc Mok
With obesity on the rise, Americans seek guidance from healthcare professionals to improve their wellness. What do you do if your healthcare provider is obese? Or if their nutrition suggestions are vague like…eat less? Many turn to the internet for answers, which we all know is riddled with misinformation (not HERE!). Fret not Maximal Beings, help is on the way! This week at maximalbeing.com we Ask If Should You Trust Your Doctor’s Nutrition Advice?
Obesity is a Rising Issue in America
Per recent CDC data, the incidence of Americans suffering from obesity is 42.4%. It is no secret that obesity is linked to heart disease, diabetes, strokes, cancer, and most recently a higher death rate among people with infections like COVID-19. Linked into to this are low levels of physical activity and poor nutrition. Globally poor nutrition is linked to over 11 million deaths annually, making it the leading cause of death.
When a disease state, such as obesity, is present, very commonly individuals will seek the advice of their healthcare provider to steer them toward the path of wellness. Yet often the advice given is incomplete or vague as our medical education system undervalues nutrition, making it tough to trust your doctor’s nutrition advice.
The Medical Education System Provides Limited Nutrition Curriculum
Most schools provide at least 1 hour of nutritional education. However, a recent survey of all accredited medical education programs in America demonstrated disturbing results. The number of schools with a formal medical education program devoted to nutrition fell from 2004 down to 25% and the number of hours also dropped to 19.6 on average. Therefore, the majority did not meet the minimum standards set forth by the National Academy of Sciences.
Most students subjectively feel this gap in knowledge. A recent study in Lancet Planetary Health demonstrated that the majority of graduating medical students feel ill prepared to provide high-quality nutrition advice. This is a scary sentiment given that health care professionals are on the front line of obesity management. But, should you trust your Doctor’s nutrition advice?
Physicians Offering Trust, Nutrition Advice, but Placing Blame
Despite this knowledge gap, physicians and other healthcare providers are engaging their obese patients. Doctors are offering advice on Nutrition. In this powerful position, it would be normal for your to trust your Doctor’s nutrition advice. Healthcare providers do positively impact the person’s perception of their own weight and often can inspire some type of action. The issue remains what that action may be.
It appears based upon a recent study that most healthcare providers believe that environment (like fast food, TV time, etc), followed by willpower and genetics are to blame for the obesity crisis. To battle this condition many also believe that mindful eating, exercise and self-monitoring are effective strategies to battle obesity. In my opinion this is putting the blame on the individual and society, but the solution only on the individual. This is a set-up for our present situation, failure.
One area that was encouraging was potential societal solutions including the sugary beverage tax and value of nutrition consultation coverage by insurance, along with exercise at work (56%, 85%, and 86% respectively). All logical interventions have the potential to improve health outcomes. Yet what are doctors telling their patients to do specifically?
What Trusted Nutrition Advice, Physicians Counsel Their Patients to Follow
Regarding dietary intervention, many medical schools teach classic diets as a means for controlling disease states. The student then graduates as a doctor, recommending these interventions they learned something about, however, things do change over time, and do they know or have time on how to guide people to implementing this strategy?
When I started training, the low sodium diet was the gospel, yet by the end of training, it was recommended in small situations. Should a provider not maintain their knowledge in that specific area, they would not know this change and continue to recommend it.
Staying up to date on these interventions and their variable rates of success if also an important piece to this puzzle. This is primarily through continuing medical education credits or CMEs, for which nutrition is not mandatory and countless other time-warping requirements are rising.
What Nutrition Advice do Doctor’s Follow Themselves?
Relying on what knowledge they have our providers do make some great recommendations, to allow you to trust your Doctor’s nutrition advice. Again, in this recent study, physicians recommend the good fat Mediterranean diet for short-term (31%) and long term (51%) weight loss. Under this recommendation was the Ketogenic Diet (LINK Here for more) and Intermittent Fasting (LINK Here). It also appeared that a plant-based protein (See our thoughts on the plant-based data) approach, without value in organic products and demonizing carbs were also part of this plan recommended by healthcare providers.
What Diets Do Doctors Follow?
Knowing these key components, it appears that most doctors themselves also follow the Mediterranean diet, intermittent fasting or “other,” whatever that means. Still, despite this practice, a recent study demonstrated that 78.1% of healthcare workers surveyed were obese and dissatisfied with their workplace wellness. Of note, the percentage of obese and overweight doctors was similar to the general population.
Medscape, dug into this a little deeper this year into physician wellness practices. Among those surveyed about 1 out of 4 exercised once weekly or less and one out of 3 2-3 times weekly. Half of doctors were trying to lose weight and most feel they sometimes work on their own wellness
To me, this indicates that physicians and healthcare workers are people TOO and mired in same muck of terrible misinformation that non-healthcare folks suffer.
The Solution to the Improving Healthcare Wellness Knowledge
I can tell you from personal experience that all of the above information is in line with my own wellness journey. I grew up in the Northeast and in grade school learned about the food pyramid, like most of you. Big grain, taught us that cereal is healthy for your heart and to eat 11-16 servings of grains daily!
My medical training involved 6 hours of nutrition, with speckles of disease-management strategies offering “diet” as a treatment. As a provider, my recommendations used to be those little bits of information that I acquired along the way. Yet, being in healthcare teaches you how to interpret the information available to you, formulate and test hypotheses and make conclusions.
Having this educational skepticism is a part of the tool kit needed to look at information and find the TRUTH. It was not until I used these abilities that I read countless books and research manuscripts to build my own wellness practices and maximalbeing.com. That is why we hope to grow a community of educated skeptics that can implement sustainable lifestyle interventions to reach their wellness goals in partnership with their healthcare providers.
Summary Use Educational Skepticism to Trust Your Doctors Nutrition Advice
Until our society embraces that education is the pathway to preventing diseases, we will be plugging holes and managing diseases. Our government needs to value quality food over quantity and money. Medical education must grant providers the tools needed to be successful in their own lives and for their patients. This education must be lifelong!
Trust your providers if they recommend you require a life-saving intervention. Use skepticism when investigating wellness practices and ask WHY you are doing what you are doing. Or employ the assistance of someone that can help you and tell you the WHY.