Abstract

Is there a Relationship between Medical Students’ Personal Lifestyle Behaviors and their Knowledge, Confidence, and Attitudes towards Nutrition in Patient Care?

Objective: The majority of US medical school curricula do not meet the recommended 25 minimum hours of nutrition. This lack of nutrition education is producing a cohort of future physicians that doesn’t feel confident enough to educate their patients on lifestyle and dietary changes. Several studies have reported associations between doctors who eat healthier and their increased frequency of nutrition counseling, however, there is little data examining the relationship between medical students’ healthy choices and their knowledge and confidence in providing lifestyle modification education to patients. We aimed to examine how medical students’ personal lifestyle behaviors affected their knowledge, attitudes and confidence in nutrition counseling. Methods: This was a cross-sectional study of Keck School of Medicine students from years one to three (n=190). Pearson correlations were conducted to assess the relationship between students’ lifestyle behaviors and their knowledge, confidence and attitudes. One-Way ANOVAs were used to assess for any temporal differences. Results: One-hundred and ninety medical students from the Keck School of Medicine (55% female and 45% male) with a response rate of 33% participated in the survey (MS1=67 students, MS2=70, MS3=53). We found a positive correlation between students’ lifestyle behaviors and confidence in nutrition counseling (r=0.26, p<0.001). Medical students who ate fruits and vegetables (r=0.28, p<0.001) and cooked for themselves (r=0.42, p<0.001) were more confident in their ability to provide nutrition counseling. The relationship between personal lifestyle behaviors and nutrition knowledge or attitudes was not statistically significant. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that students who eat healthier and have baseline knowledge in cooking have higher levels of confidence in translating dietary meal plans and counseling into patient care. In order to promote students’ healthy lifestyle behaviors medical school nutrition curricula should transition from lecture-based courses to more hands-on nutrition and student-centered classes.


Author(s): Memel Z, Cha-Chi Fung, PhD and Gregory Harlan MD, MPH

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