A Medical Science Educator Article Review From Dr. Kurt Gilliland

This review was written by Kurt Gilliland, PhD, a member of the IAMSE Publications Committee. The article, “A Suggested Strategy to Integrate an Elective on Clinical Nutrition with Culinary Medicine,” was written by Lindsey Leggett, Kareem Ahmed, Cheryl Vanier, and Amina Sadik and was published in Medical Science Educator July 6, 2021 (31:1591-1600).  

Nutrition is a critical component for preventing a majority of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes as well as for helping manage or prevent other non-communicable diseases. The coverage of nutrition in the medical education curriculum, however, is not in alignment with the prevalence of diseases stemming from a poor diet. The National Academy of Sciences recommended in 1985 that medical schools include a minimum of 25 hours dedicated to nutrition, but in 2015, a study found that only 30% of allopathic medical schools and 15% of osteopathic medical schools met or exceeded these recommended hours of instruction.

Leggett et al. point out that it is important that primary care providers be equipped to recognize, coordinate, and manage diet-related problems and health conditions. In addition, the authors indicate that physicians who practice healthy nutrition habits are more likely to counsel their patients on healthy habits, but only approximately 15% of resident physicians believe themselves adequately trained to provide nutritional counseling. The article makes a very convincing case that medical schools need to offer a strong nutrition education curriculum with an emphasis on managing special diets not only for patients but also for future physicians. 

Recognizing that the medical curriculum is already full of content and experiences, they suggest the creative approach of offering a nutrition education elective with an active learning component (e.g., a workshop) without adding hours to the curriculum – a short, optional culinary medicine course. Culinary medicine is aimed at helping people reach good personal medical decisions about accessing and eating high-quality meals that help prevent and treat disease and restore well-being.

After participating in a short culinary medicine elective, medical students agreed that preventive health and nutrition education is part of the physicians’ job regardless of specialty; nutrition counseling is an important part of patient interaction and can effectively influence patients to make healthy, effective lifestyle choices; and physicians are not adequately trained to advise patients in nutritional choices. 

Kurt Gilliland, PhD
Associate Dean of Curriculum
Associate Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology
University of North Carolina School of Medicine