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Drank The Kool-Aid

Drank the Kool-Aid

It is a common occurrence that patients ask about the differences between a Nutritionist and a Dietitian. Most times, they are very different. The most significant difference is related to an individual's specific credentials. The nature of their work may be similar depending on their chosen area of practice.

A basic definition of a Nutritionist is any professional with an education in nutritional science of any kind, working in a capacity where they are trusted to instruct, recommend and or assist with the nutrition, diet and wellness of their clients or patients. The label Nutritionist is not associated with any specific training or education. A Nutritionist could have attended a weekend seminar or a workshop as their sole educational experience. They might even have a merit badge in nutrition from some fly by night organization. On the other hand, they may have studied intensely in a number of fields related to nutrition, clinical medicine and healthcare in general.

Under current regulations, A Dietitian must earn a four-year degree in dietetics or nutritional sciences from an accredited college or university, and complete an approved internship in the nutrition science field. They must also pass the Registered Dietitian (RD) or Dietetic Technicians, Registered (DTR) examination authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the credentialing agency of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) formerly known as the American Dietetic Association (ADA).

The recent change in the name of the ADA, not to be confused with the American Diabetes Association, was the brain child of the elected administrative officials in office. It was time for rebranding the near century old professional group, one which has more than one hundred thousand credentialed practitioners. There are a number of reasons why the organization rebranded itself, most of them revolve around refocusing on the improvement of the nutritional well-being of the public through communicating the academic expertise of Academy members and supporting the organization's history as a food and science-based profession.

This high-minded, science-based sense of mission has not worked out so well for the formerly known ADA, now AND. In January 2013, well-researched, widely publicized report stripped the ADA of whatever science-based luster it had hoped to gain by rebranding. The title of Academy gives the public a sense of shinny new robes and academic commitment. In reality, a fifty page report titled And Now A Word From Our Sponsors: Are America's Nutrition Professionals in the Pocket of Big Food? Has shown that the Emperor has no clothes. The report was authored by Michele Simon, JD, MPH, a public-health attorney and author who specializes in food-industry ethics and legal issues.

What Ms. Simon reported was that Big-Food has entrenched itself into the organization and funding of the ADA/AND. It showed major concerns about the powerful role that Big-Food, Beverage and Agricultural companies are playing in shaping the agenda of AND's guidelines, policies and professional nutrition-educational platforms. AND, the nation's leading professional nutrition organization, sworn to honest and scientific information as its sole basis for recommendations on proper nutrition for us all, was funded by corporate donations from candy, soda and junk-food giants like Mars, Hershey's, Coca-Cola, Kraft and McDonalds as well as the beef and dairy industry. It is not the funding that was so disturbing, it was the link between the funding and evidence that their educational messaging and materials were being profoundly influenced by those industries ties.

AND is the organization that received an undisclosed corporate donation in 2015 which lead to the placement of "Kids Eat Right" logo on packages of Kraft American Singles - a plastic-sleeved "pasteurized prepared cheese product" that cannot legally be labeled Cheese. This kind of corporate sponsorship is perceived by everyone including parents and the sponsor that this cheese product has a de facto seal of approval from AND's scientific community.

Some Registered Dietitians have created a watchdog group called Dietitians for Professional Integrity (DFPI). They have boldly stated that Sponsorship affects public perception of Dietitians (and it does); the public deserves nutrition information that is not tainted by food industry interests (and it should not be); AND should prioritize public health instead of enabling and empowering multinational food companies (and that is a no-brainer). Make no mistake, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has no intention of following these simple constructs.

Recently the Academy has acquired a relatively new sponsor, Elanco. Elanco is a subsidiary of Eli Lilly that manufactures recombinant bovine growth hormone or rBGH. They have funded new innovative workshops. The actual goal of the Academy is to arm its members with resources to educate themselves and the public about issues relating to sustainable farming, global food insecurity, and nutritional and safe feeding of a growing world population. Bottom line: Elanco's funded "Future of Food" initiative seems to be fueling a highly controversial, agribusiness-driven bio-technology agenda. Elanco has figured out the easiest way to keep tabs on criticism and/or concerns about its practices and quickly engage in damage control, if needed.

AND continues to support outdated emphasis on calorie counting. AND continues its excessive enthusiasm for low-fat dairy and grain-based foods. AND continues its slowness to integrate new research findings on dietary cholesterol and healthy whole-food saturated fats. AND continues opposition to trans-fats labeling efforts. AND continues its apparent unwillingness to acknowledge non-celiac gluten intolerance. AND continues to maintain positions that are out-of-touch with current non-industry sponsored food science and nutrition data. Does any of this sound familiar? Big Pharma, Physicians and Pharmacists? Big Food and Dietitians?

So what's the difference between a Nutritionist who is not in the pocket of Big Food and a Registered Dietitian? A lot. Not every Registered Dietitian has drunk the Kool-Aid, but the ones I've spoken to have. But that's understandable.

Kraft is the company that manufactures Kool-Aid. There you have it.


Posted by Amanda Sanders at 9:17 AM
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