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; Elizabeth A. Beverly, PhD

Background: 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
Objective: 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.
Conclusion: 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.
J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2017;117(10):622-633
Keywords: dietician, nutrition counseling, primary care

From the School of Applied Health Sciences and Wellness in the College of Health Sciences and Professions (Ms Hargrove, Dr Berryman, and Ms Yoder) and the Diabetes
Institute (Drs Berryman and Beverly) at Ohio University in Athens; and the Departments
of Biomedical Sciences (Dr Berryman) and Family Medicine (Dr Beverly) at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine in Athens.

Financial Disclosures: None reported.

Support: None reported.
Address correspondence to
Elizabeth A. Beverly, PhD,
Ohio University Heritage
College of Osteopathic
Medicine, 357 Grosvenor Hall,
Athens, OH 45701-2979.
Submitted August 30, 2016; final revision received April 13, 2017; accepted April 25, 2017

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