Health Watch -- Your Doctor and Nutrition

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Will your doctor write you a prescription for a healthier lifestyle?

When it comes to nutrition and fitness, where do you get your information? If you're like most Americans, it isn't from your doctor. In spite of rapidly rising obesity rates, a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine says doctors aren't discussing weight, nutrition and fitness with their patients. The report urges doctors to measure patients' body mass indexes and counsel them on measures like reducing food intake or increasing exercise. Doctors should even consider writing prescriptions for exercise, to make sure patients know just how important it is to their health.

Some doctors worry that the average patient visit doesn't allow enough time for doctors to assess patients' fitness and nutrition habits and make recommendations. To make it easier for doctors, nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas developed a plan that allows doctors and other health care providers to assess a patient's diet and physical activity in about five to 10 minutes during routine visits.

The plan helps doctors ask the right questions so they can determine which patients may need nutrition and fitness advice. Nutrition questions focus on the amount of food the patient eats and the varieties of food in the patient's diet - two key factors for both health and weight control.


March 2004