Finally! Doctors Might Learn In Medical School How They—And We—Should Eat and Exercise Thanks To The ENRICH Act

congressman_tim_ryan.jpgAs little as five years ago, were you—or anyone you knew—even remotely aware of the connection between the human gut and the immune system? Probably not. Would your doctor recommend ginger extract and apple cider vinegar for mild heartburn rather than turning to antacids or drugs? Probably not (Zantac or Prilosec might be a first choice).

But now probiotics are taking over the shelves in the kefir/yogurt/sauerkraut (basically all things fermented) sections of every market because “bugs” (beneficial bacteria)  are good for you! And diet alternatives to soothe a stomach are recognized as something more than “Grandma’s remedy.”

Today the connection between food and health—and just as importantly how you feel—is much discussed. Becoming better educated about how food interacts with our body limits the time that we spend at the doctor’s office.


Yet very few patients receive any substantive advice about nutrition when they visit a physician. This may change due to legislation recently introduced in the House by Rep. Tim Ryan, (D-Ohio) and Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio).

The Expanding Nutrition’s Role in Curricula and Healthcare (ENRICH) Act (H.R. 1411) would provide U.S. medical schools with funding for courses in nutrition and physical activity. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) gives a rundown of this bipartisan bill and the reasons why it should be passed:  

Seven out of 10 deaths in the United States are now caused by chronic diseases that can be prevented and treated through lifestyle improvements such as diet and exercise. . .

Nine out of 10 physicians believe that nutrition counseling should be part of primary care visits, but less than 15 percent feel qualified to offer it. At the same time, more than half of graduating medical students rate their nutrition knowledge as “inadequate.”

The logic here is straightforward—while we all know education about nutrition and exercise is vital to our health, our primary source of unbiased and well-researched information about the subject—the medical community—is ill equipped to teach the public. And, as the PCRM Question and Answer Sheet indicates, this is not because these medical schools don’t recognized the importance of it it, they are just falling behind:

Despite the fact that medical school students want more nutrition education, the amount of nutrition education is very low and actually declining. A 1985 National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report recommended that all medical schools require at least 25 contact hours of nutrition education. In 2004, only 38 percent of medical schools met these minimum standards by requiring 25 hours of nutrition education as part of their general curricula. By 2010, that number shrunk to 27 percent. In 2004, 30 percent of U.S. medical schools required a dedicated nutrition course. In 2010, only 25 percent of U.S. medical schools required such a course.

Check out PCRM’s ENRICH Act Fact Sheet for even more info.

We applaud Representatives Ryan and Tiberi for their bill. While we know that it will take more than just a well-informed set of doctors to save the health of our nation, legislation such as the ENRICH Act that will make a big difference.

PHOTO: Congressman Tim Ryan, Wikimedia

Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson


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