Review Articles

Do medical students practice what they preach? A review of their dietary patterns over the last decade.



While many studies have been performed to evaluate different indicators of psychological distress among medical students, the amount of published data evaluating their dietary habits is limited. Therefore, the purpose of this scoping review was to provide an overview of medical students’ dietary behavior. This is the first review paper to summarise the information available about dietary practices among medical students.

Materials and Methods

A scoping review was performed in 2018 using the PRISMA-ScR framework and the MEDLINE database was searched by combining the terms ‘eat’, ‘diet’, ‘meals’, ‘nutrition’ with the word ‘medical student’ by using the ‘AND’ function. Some additional papers were also selected from the citations of relevant publications. Data was independently extracted by two authors using pretested forms.


A total of 739 articles were found by using the search terms. Thirty-three articles fulfilled the eligibility criteria and four further articles were found from the citations of relevant publications. Medical students showed an increasing tendency to exhibit conventionally unhealthy eating patterns, both as a whole and within different dietary categories. In particular, decreased fruit and vegetable intake, overindulgence of fast food, and a tendency to skip meals. Gender discrepancies were also noted in some categories.


Medical students, while for the most part displaying a full understanding of the nutritional science behind dietary recommendations, did not always meet the advised levels for most of the categories explored. Lapses in personal dietary choices may affect patient counselling, in addition to the many direct consequences of improper nutrition on the health and wellbeing of the student themselves.

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