A new report published by the MDPI points to nutrition being ‘neglected’ in UK medical training.

In the report – Are We Neglecting Nutrition in UK Medical Training? A Quantitative Analysis of Nutrition-Related Education in Postgraduate Medical Training Curriculums – attention is drawn to the extent to which clinicians are ‘underprepared to facilitate informed nutrition-related decision-making with patients’ thanks to a lack of nutritional training at medical school.

The position of lead authors Laura Banis, Barts Health NHS Trust, and Tatiana Christides, Leicester Medical School, is substantiated by several studies worldwide, as the medical profession continues to be scrutinized over its ‘inadequate nutrition education’ – something ‘commonly cited as an obstacle in the engagement of doctors with diet and weight-related interventions’.

“In the UK, a recent study of 853 medical students and doctors found that over 70% had received less than two hours nutrition training while at medical school. In addition, lack of knowledge about nutrition guidelines, unawareness of effective clinical communication tools for discussing nutrition and weight management with patients, and a lack of physician leadership/role models have been identified as barriers to physicians providing nutrition counselling,” say Banis and Christides.

The pair state that nutrition-related medical education at undergraduate level ‘forms an essential foundation for trainee doctors’, but add that professional development and learning is ‘required throughout each stage of postgraduate training’ and that there have been ‘deficiencies’ in this area of post-grad medical education for over 20 years.

This problem has only been exacerbated by the fact that nutrition remains champion-less amongst medical professionals

“Even as nutrition learning objectives have come to be integrated into curriculums, their significance is often undermined by the disjointed and disorganized way the objectives are included; without recognition of nutrition as a discrete clinical specialty, or a ‘nutrition system’ equal to the cardiovascular, respiratory and other conventionally defined systems, curriculums fail to provide a cohesive picture of the role of nutrition in medical education and training. This problem has only been exacerbated by the fact that nutrition remains champion-less amongst medical professionals, with many clinical teachers and physician role models themselves having had little or no training in nutrition.”

Initiatives such as the Nutrition Task Force and Intercollegiate Group on Nutrition (ICGN) were established in the mid-1990s, in recognition of ‘the need for systemic education and training as a prerequisite to safe and competent clinical practice, but despite many comprehensive objectives being set out, the authors note that there is no evidence to suggest that these objectives ‘were ever systematically incorporated into postgraduate training’.

Banis and Christides highlight that in a 2012 report from the House of Commons it states that the ICGN ‘Intercollegiate Course in Human Nutrition’ had run ‘a total of 22 times over 15 years’; this ‘variable implementation and inconsistent uptake’ may leave doctors with a ‘fragmented and unsystematic approach to nutrition-related learning objectives’.