Yes, the purists are back.
You may recall my review of John Ioannidis’ mini-rant against medical meetings predicated mostly on the basis of their large carbon footprint ("Beating a Path to Medical Meetings"). Now our eating habits are being targeted. Don’t believe me? Check out "Changing Eating Habits for the Medical Profession" by Lesser and colleagues (JAMA 2012;308:983-4) and find out that as physicians, we need to be role models when we open our mouths. We learn that "food served at medical meetings does not seem to adhere to any nutritional guidelines." Apparently, a good meal for us is "a vegetable and hummus," which the authors provide as a specific recommendation for noontime conferences. No pizza for you! Calorie labeling at meetings? In. Snacks of more than 100 calories? Out.
Of course, there is a kernel of wisdom in all this. There are still some providers who smoke, some of us don’t exercise enough, and some are overweight. But that’s not the issue; personal choice is. We can’t be so regulated that our food choices are subject to public oversight and criticism. What’s next? Publicly reported performance measures that evaluate our weekly intake of organic arugula? Medicare reimbursement tied to provider weight (observed versus ideal)? A mandate to ensure that our coffee is brewed with cruelty-free, trade fair beans? Or in the nonfood sphere, requirements that our offices run on solar power?
At moments like this, I am tempted to arrange a delivery of Big Macs and Big Gulps at the next American Heart Association meeting. Bet I’d find a few takers.
Note my disclosures: I have no conflict of interest with any fast food chain, I’m a vegetarian, and no trees were destroyed (to my knowledge) during the writing of this blog. I did, however, eat four pretzels. They contained neither salt nor trans fats. With regrets, I did not dip them in hummus.
Dr. Paul Hauptman is Professor of Internal Medicine and Assistant Dean of Clinical-Translational Research at Saint Louis University and Director of Heart Failure at Saint Louis University Hospital. He currently serves as an Associate Editor for Circulation: Heart Failure and blogs while staring out his office window at the Arch.