Background Physicians have a critical role in promoting healthy behaviors, a cost-effective intervention that results in reduction of disease morbidity and mortality. It is essential that medical students have a nutritional education that allows them to correctly inform their patients. At NOVA Medical School (NMS), NOVA University of Lisbon, nutrition and metabolism is a required curricular unit in the 1st year of the medical curriculum. In 2021, for the final-year medical students we developed a hands-on nutrition course (8 hours of contact time) based on the Mediterranean Diet (MD) principles and its association with cardiovascular and metabolic protection.
Objectives To determine the impact of a nutrition practical course on nutritional knowledge, self-reported cooking skills, confidence on future dietary counselling, and adherence to the MD of the 6th year medical students at NMS.
Methods This was an observational study approved by the Ethics Committee of NMS (38/2021/CEFCM). All the registered students (n=48) were invited to complete a self-administered online questionnaire at the beginning and at the end of the course.
Results At the beginning and at the end of the course students reported good nutrition knowledge, having 83% of the answers correct (15 questions). After the course there was an increase in self-report skills to cook legumes (p<0.05). The students’ confidence on their knowledge about the role of food constituents in health (p<0.05) and food/nutrient interactions (p<0.05) also increased. The students’ confidence to advice counselling strategies for preparing meals with a lower glycemic index (p<0.05) and for incrementing polyunsaturated fatty acids rich foods (p<0.05) also increased. In both times the students had moderate MD adherence (9.0 vs. 7.5 p=0.157). A limitation of the present study is the fact that only 33% of registered students attended to more than half of the course (n=16). Only 37.5% of those answered to both questionnaires (n=6). This low adherence may be due to schedule constraints related with clinical internship.
Conclusion Our pilot study evidences that hands-on nutrition education has a significant positive impact in confidence to perform dietary counselling. In addition, it would be important to assess if the self-reported cooking skills and the confidence to perform dietary counselling are maintained over time.
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