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Naykky Singh Ospina, MD – Endocrinologist, University of Florida

Amir Kazory, MD – Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Florida

Maryam Sattari, MD, MS – Associate Professor of Medicine, University of Florida

Monica Aggarwal, MD – MD, University of Florida


Objective :

Physicians are encouraged to advocate for healthy lifestyles, with the goal of influencing their patients’ behavior. We aimed to evaluate the knowledge of physicians regarding nutrition and exercise, and their own behavior.

Methods :

An electronic survey was sent to physicians in the Department of Medicine of a large academic hospital. The survey assessed the participants’ demographics, comorbidities, perceptions, knowledge and behavior related to healthy lifestyles. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, and the χ2 test was used for group comparisons.

Results :

The survey was sent to 331 eligible physicians of which 297(90%) responded. Majority of the respondents were women (55%), white (70%), and 65% were ≤ 44 years old. Almost 50% reported being overweight.

Only 35% of the participants responded that they ate ≥2 servings of vegetables and ≥3 servings of fruit per day. Half of the participants (52%) exercised more than 3 hours a week. 

Interestingly, while most (91%) considered themselves as somewhat or very knowledgeable about nutrition, only 6% (18/297) could correctly identify the recommended daily goals for fruits and vegetables consumption and optimal calories coming from sugar.

A significant number (11/18, 61%) of participants who correctly answered nutrition questions ate ≥2 servings of vegetables/day and ≥3 servings of fruits/day compared to 34% (94/279) of those who did not (p= 0.02).

Only 46% of the participants (137/297) correctly identified the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association recommendation of exercising 150 minutes per week. Of those who were knowledgeable, 57% (78/137) exercised more than three hours per week. Similarly, 48% (77/160) of those who did not identify the correct exercise goal exercised more than three hours (p= 0.13).

Most participants (85%) considered nutrition somewhat or very important; 40% of them (102/253) ate ≥2 servings of vegetables and ≥3 servings of fruit per day, while only 7%(3/44) of those who considered nutrition less important followed this recommendation (p<0.0001).

Discussion :

Most physicians considered nutrition to be important and believed that they are knowledgeable about it. Yet, only a minority adhered to the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. While knowledge on nutrition and consideration of nutrition as important were correlated with healthy behavior, knowledge on exercise goals was not related to the amount of physical activity.

Conclusion :

Similar to their patients, physicians have knowledge and attitudes gaps about nutrition and exercise. Improving education on exercise and nutrition is conceivable to improve ther ability to counsel patients.

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