Pharmacists poorly equipped on nutrition, conference told

pharmacist eating apple

Pharmacists are poorly equipped to dispense nutrition-based advice, a UK conference has heard.

Delegates to the “Food. The Forgotten Medicine” conference, organised by the College of Medicine, were told that the lack of training about nutrition among health care professionals is “clinically negligent,” the Pharmaceutical Journal reports.

“Healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, are failing to give patients evidence-based dietary advice that could improve their health because they lack the training to do so, a conference has heard,” wrote Fawz Farhan.

Patients are increasingly looking for good information on diet and nutrition, but many health care professionals simply can’t give it, he writes.

“Half of prescribed medicines could be replaced with dietary advice. [It] is more cost effective, safe and has no negative side effect,” broadcaster and GP Phil Hammond, who made the “clinically negligent” comment, told the conference.

Dietitians’ Association of Australia spokesperson and Accredited Practising Dietitian Melanie McGrice told the AJP that it would be unrealistic for pharmacists to have the same amount of education about nutrition as a dietitian, but they are still very well placed to help give their patients good information on the subject.

“I certainly agree that a lot of medicines can be replaced, or at least used hand-in-hand with, dietary changes,” she says.

“We certainly know that diet has a huge impact on health, and I’d love to see dietary strategies used as an earlier intervention before turning to medicines, where possible.

“I think pharmacists are more accessible for people in need, more so than any other health profession, and it’s not hard to make some of the obvious recommendations that can make a big impact: things like eating more fruit and vegetables and choosing leaner cuts of meat, and cutting junk food out of your diet.

“I would actually really appreciate it if pharmacists could make some of these logical suggestions, and to see pharmacists and dietitians working more closely together.”

Pharmacists and dietitians should work hand in hand, with the former referring to the latter where appropriate, rather than expecting pharmacists to become experts in nutrition, McGrice says.

“Dietitians spend at least four years studying nutrition, so you can’t expect pharmacists to go and do an additional four years of training on top of the work that they already do – and pharmacists already have such a broad area of knowledge.

“But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of nutritional advice they can give. I would encourage them to give the recommendations as per the Australian Dietary Guidelines and when they run into something more complicated, refer on to their local dietitian.”

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