What Doctors Don’t Know About Nutrition

I thank Dr. Pauline Chen for her article in The NY Times.  It is very important to raise awareness about this issue.  Even as medical technology progresses, we are becoming a much more unhealthy society, and I strongly believe that declining nutrition has a lot do with this.  Yet many medical schools do not effectively teach about nutrition. Most physicians do not have adequate knowledge about nutrition and are unable to counsel their patients on the subject.

As a physician, I had often felt somewhat incompetent when it came to the topic of diet and nutrition. As physicians, we are often expected to be experts in everything to do with the human body. This is an unreasonable expectation. However, when it comes to a subject as fundamental to health as nutrition, we should be experts. How else can we effectively care for our patients against the widespread threat of poor nutrition?  In medical school, I learned the scientific basics of nutrition. However, I did not learn how to apply the concepts of nutrition to my patients, nor did I learn how nutrition relates to disease or health maintenance. 

Now nutrition is the foundation of my practice. As an integrative and anti-aging medicine specialist, I work with my patients to optimize their health. When I decided to become an anti-aging specialist, I realized how deficient my medical training had been with regards to nutrition. I spent the first 10 years of my medical career as an emergency room physician and spent much of my time writing prescriptions to treat the symptoms of disease. I saw many sick people with illness most likely caused from poor nutrition, but I didn’t know how to counsel them. I knew very little about nutrition.  When I decided to become an integrative medicine specialist, I needed to obtain additional training in a variety of areas, such as hormone therapy, gut health, detoxification, and adrenal health. However, everything I studied led me back to the topic of nutrition, and I have spent a considerable amount of time learning about nutritional deficiencies and how our diet impacts our overall health.

Regardless of a patient’s health, I always offer nutritional guidance and assess their typical diet. Whatever their issues are, they will do much better if we incorporate good nutrition into their treatment plan. I try to teach them how to optimize their health and feel as good as possible through nutrition.  Some listen and some don’t. Through the ones that listen, I have seen the wonderful results.  Hopefully, medical schools, physicians, and physicians in training will start placing greater emphasis on nutrition education. 

Joseph Mazzei, M.D.
Medical Director, BodyLogicMD of Chicago

About Dr. Mazzei
Dr. Mazzei graduated from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine at Midwestern University. He completed his residency in 2003 at Midwestern University at Provident Hospital in Chicago. He practiced Emergency Medicine at Provena St. Joseph Hospital and Northwest Community Hospital in Illinois and at Mercy Hospital in Janesville, Wisconsin.

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