The Mismatch of Nutrition and Lifestyle Beliefs and Actions Among Physicians: A Wake-Up Call

There is a notable lack of education on nutrition and physical activity guidelines in medical schools and postgraduate training. The purpose of this study is to assess the nutrition and exercise knowledge and personal health behaviors of physicians in the Department of Medicine at a large academic center. Methods. We conducted a survey study in the Department of Medicine at the University of Florida in 2018. The survey instrument included questions on demographics, medical comorbidities, baseline perception of health and fitness, and knowledge of nutrition concepts. The Duke Activity Status Index assessed activity/functional capacity and the validated 14-point Mediterranean Diet Survey evaluated dietary preferences. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and the χ2 test was used to perform comparisons between groups. Statistical significance was determined at P < .05. Results. Out of 331 eligible physicians, 303 (92%) participated in the study. While all respondents agreed that eating well is important for health, less than a fourth followed facets of a plant-based Mediterranean diet. Only 25% correctly identified the American Heart Association recommended number of fruit and vegetable servings per day and fewer still (20%) were aware of the recommended daily added sugar limit for adults. Forty-six percent knew the American Heart Association physical activity recommendations and 52% reported more than 3 hours of personal weekly exercise. Reported fruit and vegetable consumption correlated with perceived level of importance of nutrition as well as nutrition knowledge. Forty percent of physicians (102/253) who considered nutrition at least somewhat important reported a minimum of 2 vegetable and 3 fruit servings per day, compared with 7% (3/44) of those who considered nutrition less important (“neutral,” “not important,” or “important, but I don’t have the time to focus on it right now”; P < .0001). Conclusions. This study highlights the need for significant improvement in education of physicians about nutrition and physical activity and need for physicians to focus on good personal health behaviors, which may potentially improve with better education.


Aggarwal, M., Singh Ospina, N., Kazory, A., Joseph, I., Zaidi, Z., Ataya, A., Sattari, M. (2019). The Mismatch of Nutrition and Lifestyle Beliefs and Actions Among Physicians: A Wake-Up Call. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. doi:10.1177/1559827619883603