Doctors show bad example in chowing down

A California internist said meals at medical meetings should be more nutritious and planned with input from physicians.

By Damon Adams — Posted Feb. 9, 2004

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

Next time you belly up to the dinner table at a medical meeting, consider skipping the cheesecake and soda pop.

A study of food served at 13 annual medical professional society meetings in 2000 found that meals and snacks lacked nutrition and were rich, sweet and high in calories. Such dietary offerings are not a good example for physicians to set when the nation is focusing on fighting obesity.

"There's no excuse for chips at every meeting and soda at every break, unless we're just trying to create more business in the cardiologist's office," said John La Puma, MD, a Santa Barbara, Calif., internist who co-authored the study in the winter 2003 issue of Disease Management, a quarterly medical journal.

Dr. La Puma and other researchers surveyed planners for 13 medical meetings, where 113,477 physicians downed 2 million meals and snacks during meetings that lasted an average 4½ days. Planners said budget and nutritional guidelines were most important when selecting cuisine.

Yet desserts were served at every lunch and dinner. Soda pop was offered at each break, as were potato chips, snack mixes or candies.

The study said the food might impair physician learning and increase fatigue due to excessive caloric intake and unhealthy fat intake.

"There's a high nod-off rate after lunch. The room doesn't clear out because there's golf. It clears out because they're sleepy," said Dr. La Puma, medical director of the Santa Barbara Institute for Medical Nutrition and Healthy Weight.

No doctors were involved in planning meeting meals, but maybe they should be, Dr. La Puma said.

He recommends improving the menus at medical meetings by serving fish instead of red meat, replacing butter with olive oil, increasing portions of vegetables, fruits and whole grains and eliminating sugared soda.

"It's extraordinarily doable," Dr. La Puma said. "Because it's healthy doesn't mean it has to taste like cardboard."

Back to top




Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn