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[6 min read] 5 conditions better managed with nutrition care in general practice

The World Health Organisation reports that there is a strong relationship between diet and some major chronic diseases. Here are just five of the conditions general practitioners commonly see in primary care that can be better managed when patients receive effective medical nutrition support from their GP.

1. Obesity

Did you know? Almost two in three Australian adults are overweight or obese. 

For people with obesity, there is an imbalance between energy expenditure (due to a lack of physical activity) and energy consumption (due to excess intake of calories from sugar, fat or starch). Reducing intakes of foods and drinks that are high in fat and sugar can prevent unhealthy weight gain. Often, overweight patients are unsure how to reverse their poor habits or need medical guidance to help them find a plan that works for them. Constructing simple goals helps to support healthier choices at an individual level, which reflects in a huge social and lifestyle change in the long-term.

2. Diabetes

Did you know? An estimated 1.2 million people in Australia have type 2 diabetes.

The rate of type 2 diabetes continues to escalate worldwide, with excess weight gain and physical inactivity being contributing factors. Diabetes leads to increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and infections. By helping patients to increase their physical activity and maintain a healthy weight, GPs play a critical role in preventing and treating diabetes, and stopping it from manifesting into further health concerns that result in poorer outcomes for the patient.

3. Cardiovascular diseases

Did you know? Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in Australia. In 2015, 29 per cent of all deaths had an underlying cause of cardiovascular disease and around 15.7 per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population were estimated to have heart disease.

Cardiovascular diseases are a major killer worldwide, and greatly due to unbalanced diets and poor physical activity. A patient’s risk of heart disease and stroke is reduced by eating less saturated and trans fats, and sufficient amounts of polyunsaturated fats, fruits and vegetables and less salt. GPs can be influential in guiding patients’ diets, encouraging physical activity and helping them to control their weight to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease progression.

4. Cancer

Did you know? An estimated 145,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Australia this year.

Dietary factors contribute significantly to some types of cancer. Helping patients to maintain a healthy weight can reduce their risk for developing cancers of the oesophagus, colorectum, breast, endometrium and kidney. Similarly, guiding patients’ alcohol intake can reduce risk for cancers of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, liver and breast. Ensuring an adequate intake of fruit and vegetables can further reduce risk for oral cavity, oesophagus, stomach and colorectal cancers.

5. Osteoporosis and bone fractures

Did you know? Nearly two million Australians have an osteoporosis-related condition and, after age 60, one in two Australian women will have a fracture related to osteoporosis.

Fragility fractures are a common problem for older people, who often rely on their family GP for medical support. Adequate intakes of calcium and vitamin D in populations with high osteoporosis rates helps to reduce fracture risk, as does physical activity to strengthen bones and muscles.


A balanced, nutritional diet is essential at all stages of life, and GPs are ideally placed to provide optimal nutritional support to patients presenting with (or at risk of) a range of chronic conditions. To achieve best results in preventing nutrition-related chronic diseases, GPs should ensure they are well educated in the latest medical nutrition management guidelines for primary care, so that they can safely and confidently address patients’ concerns and help them make healthier, evidence-based choices.

Read more about medical nutrition management in primary care.

Want to learn more about managing your patients’ nutrition concerns in general practice? Upskill in Medical Nutrition Management.

Medical Nutrition Certificate Courses in Australia

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