Medical EducationOriginal Article

Assessment of Nutrition Knowledge and Attitudes in Preclinical Osteopathic Medical Students

Emily J. Hargrove, MS; Darlene E. Berryman, PhD, RD, LD; Jennifer M. Yoder, MS, RD, LD; and Elizabeth A. Beverly, PhD
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: April 13, 2017

Accepted: April 25, 2017

Published: October 1, 2017

J Osteopath Med; 117(10): 622-633

Context: Nutrition is often overlooked in everyday health care despite the definitive connection between diet and health. Many practicing physicians and medical students feel unqualified to discuss specific dietary recommendations with patients, which may be attributed to inadequate nutrition education during medical school.

Objectives: To assess the nutrition knowledge of osteopathic medical students and their attitudes regarding the importance of nutrition counseling in their future role as practicing physicians.

Methods: Using a descriptive, cross-sectional study design, the authors evaluated first- and second-year osteopathic medical students’ nutrition knowledge and attitudes toward nutrition counseling. A questionnaire that assessed attitudes toward nutrition counseling and a quiz that tested nutrition knowledge were used.

Results: A total of 257 first-year (n=139) and second-year (n=118) medical students (mean [SD] age, 24.8 [3.4] years; 52.8% female and 78.2% white) completed the quiz and survey. The average score of the nutrition knowledge quiz was 69.5%, with 130 participants (50.6%) scoring below the school’s passing rate of 72.5%. Second-year students performed better than first-year students on the quiz (mean, 74.2% vs 65.9%; t=−5.17; P<.001). The majority of participants (143 [55.6%]) felt comfortable counseling patients on nutrition recommendations; however, only 30 (11.9%) were aware of the current dietary reference intakes. Qualitatively, most participants acknowledged the importance of providing patient education, promoting overall health and wellness, and preventing and treating disease.

Conclusions: The majority of participants felt comfortable counseling future patients on nutrition recommendations; however, most participants lacked knowledge of dietary reference intakes and medical nutrition therapy. Because half of osteopathic medical students typically enter primary care, students and their future paitents would benefit from the integration of more nutrition education in medical school.

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