And what you can do to get trustworthy health advice
There’s an old saying: “Often wrong, but never in doubt.” Sadly, this dangerous combination applies to the nutritional education of medical students, according to a new study. Next month, they’re about to let loose on an unsuspecting public yet another class of inadequately educated graduates, so I thought this would be a good time to warn you.
And unfortunately, this disturbing state of affairs doesn’t get any better after students graduate and enter medical practice. Another new study has found that a whopping two-thirds of cardiologists lack up-to-date education about nutrition and diet. Why? Well, there are several factors at work.
Med schools earn a failing grade on nutrition education
Let’s start with the doctors in training. Ohio State researchers surveyed 257 first- and second-year medical students and found that 68 percent thought the role of a primary care physician should include nutrition counseling and meal planning.1 (Maybe we’ll get to 100 percent someday, but we have a lot more work to do until then…)
In the meantime, that 68 percent sounds good in theory. Except for the fact that over half (51 percent) of those students weren’t able to pass a simple quiz on nutrition.
If there’s anything that medical students are good at, it’s taking tests (otherwise, they wouldn’t be accepted into medical school to begin with). But apparently not when it comes to earning passing scores on some of the most basic aspects of human biology and health.
Even worse, only 12 percent of the students in the study were aware of the current dietary reference intakes (as woefully inadequate as they may be, thanks to the government). Despite this, 56 percent said they felt comfortable counseling future patients about nutrition recommendations.
Mainstream medicine’s shocking definition of “nutrition”
Not surprisingly, the researchers concluded that doctors-to-be need a lot more nutrition training. The National Academy of Science recommends at least 25 hours of nutrition education for all medical students, but the study’s researchers concluded that most medical schools don’t even come close to hitting this minimal target.
Of course, when your teachers know nothing about a subject (and most of what they “know” is actually wrong), that’s not a good recipe for success either.
In mainstream medicine, “nutrition” often means “intravenous hyperalimentation”—a surgical technique pioneered by Dr. Stanley Dudrick, and the late Dr. Jonathan Rhoads, while he was the head of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, my alma mater. This duo’s technological innovation delivers nutritional requirements to a patient through a feeding line directly into a major vein, so that it enters the bloodstream.
This scientific breakthrough occurred nearly half a century ago, but mainstream nutrition education still focuses on it—while completely bypassing everything we’ve learned since then about natural foods, plants, the human diet, and digestion.
The high price of mainstream “acceptance”
One of the things I found most troubling about the Ohio State study is that it was conducted with doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) candidates.
A quick background on osteopathic physicians. Traditionally, they’re trained to use a whole-person, natural approach to treatment and care. Not too long ago, osteopathic medical schools routinely taught about diet and nutrition as well as modern medical technology—and about one-quarter of DOs still included natural medicine in their practices.
In other words, once-upon-a-time, these doctors treated the big picture—not just the symptoms.
But osteopathic physicians have long had a goal of being accepted and “integrated” into mainstream medicine. And they’ve finally succeeded. DOs are now licensed to practice in every medical specialty, have hospital privileges everywhere, and provide a full range of services (from writing prescriptions to performing surgery).
However, as I recently realized, their devil’s bargain is causing them to leave behind more than they’re gaining for their patients.
In fact, DOs’ traditional, natural approaches have fallen off so badly in recent years, I couldn’t even keep a chapter on osteopathic medicine in the latest edition of my medical textbook, Fundamentals of Complementary & Alternative Medicine (which can be found at www.DrMicozzi.com/books).
And if that’s the sorry case in osteopathic medicine, one shudders to think of the situation in mainstream (MD) medicine. But I’m afraid we know that story all too well.
Their heart just isn’t in it
Which leads me to the other new study I mentioned earlier, which surveyed 930 cardiologists, cardiology fellows, and cardiology team members throughout the U.S.2
The researchers found that 31 percent of the cardiologists received absolutely no nutrition education in medical school.
And apparently they didn’t remedy this after they graduated. Less than one-third of the practicing cardiologists described their nutrition knowledge as “mostly up to date” or better.
In fact, only a jaw-dropping 8 percent described themselves as having “expert” nutrition knowledge. And yet, 95 percent of the cardiologists surveyed said they believe their role includes personally providing patients with nutrition information.
This despite the fact that the vast majority can’t even achieve basic nutrition levels themselves. Just 20 percent of the cardiologists in the survey reported that they ate five or more servings of fruit and vegetables a day.
Is it any wonder they keep giving out lousy, outdated advice about cutting cholesterol and saturated fats, and avoiding dairy and meat—all while ignoring the scientifically documented problems of sugar and carbs?
This study also found that almost two-thirds of the cardiologists surveyed reported spending three minutes or less per visit discussing nutrition with their patients.
Sadly, this may be for the best, because it appears most cardiologists are only spreading their ignorance and misinformation—just repeating a few old, politically correct platitudes (that have been all wrong, all along).
Where to look for trustworthy nutritional advice
As these studies show, chances are that your doctor (whether a DO or MD), and especially your cardiologist, won’t really help you when it comes to learning about nutrition.
And, as I wrote in a November 2016 Daily Dispatch (“Dieticians aren’t as healthy as you might think”), recent revelations about the worrisome attitudes, behaviors, and motivations of dieticians and nutritionists are also a real problem (although they too, sadly, are not a surprise).
However, your local pharmacist may be a bright spot on the horizon at least when it comes to dietary supplements. (I covered this in my February newsletter: “How a ‘medicine cabinet makeover’ could save your life.” To revisit this article, sign in to the archives via www.DrMicozzi.com.)
The bottom line: You have to educate yourself about nutritional science and the benefits of a balanced diet, natural health approaches, and dietary supplements. Of course, you’ll get plenty of help from my Daily Dispatches and monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletters.
You can also refer to my six online learning protocols for more detailed advice on specific health concerns, spanning various topics affecting billions of people worldwide including arthritis, Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and longevity. You can learn more about them by visiting
For overall health in your day-to-day life, I recommend abiding by four basic principles:
- Eat a Mediterranean-style diet.This consists of lean proteins, extra-virgin olive oil, fresh produce, nuts, and whole grains. It provides your body with essential healthy fats and nutrients, while promoting weight loss.
- Don’t worry about saturated fat/cholesterol. The low-fat, low-cholesterol crazes were manufactured by the government decades ago and still haven’t died out, despite the plethora of research against this advice. Avoid processed meats and trans fats, but don’t be afraid of olive oil, butter, eggs, and grass-fed meats.
- Stay adequately hydrated at the cellular level.During my travels years ago, I came across a little-known, truly remarkable plant called South African red bush—also known as rooibos or aspal.This plant has been linked to improved gait and physical performance, as well as powering the mitochondria—your cells’ energy factories.
In fact, I wrote an entire special report about aspal called The Miracle at Red Bush. (You can access this by logging into the Subscribers Sign-In via my website.)
- Stay away from processed foods and especially sugar (which has been shown to fuel cancer cells—as I recently covered in the lead story of my January issue of Insider’s Cures.) Instead, focus on whole, natural foods.
1“Assessment of Nutrition Knowledge and Attitudes in Preclinical Osteopathic Medical Students.” J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2017 Oct 1;117(10):622-633.
2“A Deficiency of Nutrition Education and Practice in Cardiology.” Am J Med. 2017 Nov;130(11):1298-1305.