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The New ABCs of Medical School: Anatomy, Biochemistry, and Cooking

As Hippocrates, the founder of modern medicine, spoke, “Let food be thy medicine.” However, most medical schools in the United States do not adequately teach nutrition. Several programs, including at Tulane University, are addressing this shortcoming by including cooking classes in their curriculum. The hope is that by teaching future doctors how to cook delicious and healthy meals, they will pass that knowledge on to their patients, improving long-term health.

The rates of obesity and obesity-related diseases are increasing throughout the world according to “Prediabetes: A Worldwide Epidemic.” The Center for Disease Control reports that nearly half of all deaths in the United States are due to heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes. Entire scientific journals, such as Nutrition and Health, Diabetes, and the Journal of Nutrition, are devoted to examining the relationships between nutrition and health. Research has shown that nutrition is one of the leading causes of and significantly affects the management of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and aging-related diseases.

There is no clear correlation between policy recommendations and nutrition choices. For example, a study that provided nutrition information to adults at fast-food chains found that simply providing information did not alter consumer choices. Coaching has consistently proven effective at changing eating habits, especially when tailored to an individual’s lifestyle and medical history. Many see using doctors as nutrition coaches as a natural extension of a physician’s duties and a valuable opportunity for one-on-one intervention. However, a National Institute of Health survey revealed that a majority of primary care physicians do not give diet advice. According to polls reported by the Washington Post, less than 25 percent of doctors feel they are informed enough regarding nutrition to discuss it knowledgeably.

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