Effectiveness of dietary intervention in general practice
The scope for dietary intervention in general practice is substantial. The three most prevalent conditions for which general practitioners are likely to give dietary advice are hypertension, functional digestive disorders, and ischemic heart disease. As well as clinical diseases, risk factors such as raised plasma cholesterol concentrations also provide opportunities for dietary intervention. But resources are limited. If a general practitioner or nurse spends 5 min of a 10-min consultation on dietary advice, there is 5 min less to spend on the rest of the consultation. Research studies in general practice show that small changes in plasma cholesterol concentrations can be achieved by dietary interventions. Intensive intervention can also influence salt intake to a small extent. However, the most important, potentially cost-effective roles for the general practitioner in health promotion are the legitimization and reinforcement of public health information by brief advice and the distribution of written material. Secondary and tertiary prevention is a priority in general practice and may entail use of drugs, but drugs are not a desirable solution for the unhealthy diets of healthy people.