RD, RDN, LD, CBN, NBNC: acronyms for licensed and or registered dietitians. These are the professionals who work in the medical fields, and your doctor or specialist likely has one on staff. They work in hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities. A lot of them go on to work for companies like NutriSystem, Jenny Craig, or one of those “Medi-Fast Weight Loss” centers. Some large globo-gyms have one or two on staff, and they are the contributing editors and staff writers for the “Health & Lifestyle” sections of major publications and news media outlets. These professionals are responsible for health & science-based nutritional advice regarding your specific illness, disease or concern. For example, if you are diagnosed with IBS, your doctor will send you into the office of his RD, and he or she will tell you to eat more fiber and drink more water (maybe). Patients who are diagnosed with T2 Diabetes will have an RD assigned to their case, and common advice heard is to eat whole wheat, whole grains and maintain a low fat diet.
If that advice was not enough reason to second-guess a legitimately licensed and registered dietician, keep reading:
Make no mistake, dieticians work hard for their career. They have to go through a lot of school, and pass the exams. I don’t discredit them for hard work, in fact, it’s a big investment and a lot of brain power. However, I’d consider it a bit more credible if their education wasn’t funded by candy bar & soda companies. Lets take a look at the academy that is responsible for their education (ie, textbooks, course work and content).
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly ADA (American Dietetic Association), is now the largest organization for professionals in nutrition… in the world. They are THE authority on health & nutrition, and also, are the ones who are responsible for formulating, creating and publishing the educational content and textbooks for students going into this field. They provide the licenses and registration that allow professionals to get steady jobs in the medical and health field. Great, right? Someone needs to have some regulation over who gives us – the unassuming public – nutrition advice, especially when our lives depend on it. If I didn’t know any better, I’d want to see a certification proving a license and legal registration, too. But let’s go back… to the part about regulation. Who is really regulating the integrity of these professionals? Take a look at this list of current sponsors and partners of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:
- National Cattleman’s Beef Association
- National Dairy Council
- General Mills
- ConAgra Foods
- National Dairy Council
- Abbott Nutrition
Don’t worry, you can double check this information for yourself, they are publicly listed under corporate sponsors at eatright.org or just click on this or this. And take a look at the academy guidelines for corporate sponsors:
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics welcomes corporate relationships that help the Academy fulfill its mission and vision in the following ways:
- Delivering Academy-approved nutrition messages to a wider consumer audience than the Academy could reach using its own resources
- Providing Academy-approved educational tools and materials to Academy members that are useful in their professional work with Academy positions and philosophies
I don’t know about you, but I find it strange that Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Kraft and Nestle are allowed to offer APPROVED continuing education courses for registered dietitians. And some of the great advice from Coca-Cola? “sugar is not harmful to children, and federal nutrition standards for school meals are too restrictive.” Well hell!!! If I were a high-ranking executive at Coca Cola, and my job depended on me making a dollar for my top investors… and I were able to finagle my way into some nutrition courses… I guess I’d tell everyone sugar is good for you, too!
Just kidding. I’d never do that.
So what are some of these other companies that serve as partners and premier sponsors to the AND? Let’s look at Abbott Nutrition. Sounds like a legit company that seems to be concerned, obviously, with nutrition. Right? I mean, the name gives it away. What do they do? They are the creators and manufacturers of Pedialyte, Ensure, Similac Formula, Glucerna, ZONE bars, and PediaSure, to name a few. You can check out the rest of their brands here.
Here are the ingredients in their Similac infant formula:
The main ingredient is corn syrup. And on top of this, they continue to add MORE sugar via 6 different formulations inside the ingredients, and top it all off with a ton of GMO soy and other harsh additives and preservatives. I’m not sure how they were able to conjure up this list of ingredients and say it’s the next best thing to breast milk. I don’t see any natural ingredients that can be easily pronounced in English in there at all. Yet, they are able to provide pediatricians and other health care professionals “educational information”… which eventually gets into the belief system of a new mother who wants nothing but the best for her baby.
But yet, despite all of the research and evidence regarding negative hormonal, carcinogenic and endocrinological effects of GMOs and soy- they continue to use GM soy in their formulas, and are allowed to be on the counsel providing education to the pediatricians, geriatric physicians, and dietitians who will eventually advise you on what to feed your baby… or how to get a senior patient more nutrition because all of their medications deplete mineral absorption. Enter Ensure! And if they are so concerned about developing brands that create, enhance and improve the health of children and older adults… why not AT LEAST use organic soy ingredients? Considering the amount of money they spend on becoming AND sponsors and contributors, you’d think they could afford to source organic soy -and better quality ingredients.
Check out the ingredients of a bottle of Ensure, which is a supplemental beverage designed by Abbott to replace nutrients to senior patients, or people battling severe immune-suppressing diseases. Or as they put it “rebuild muscle and strength naturally lost over time, supporting digestive tract health and the immune system, and helping build strong bones.” Can someone please explain to me, or give me solid proof, how corn syrup maltodextrin, sugar, canola oil, soy protein, corn oil and processed GMO cocoa in addition to a long list of highly inflammatory GMO preservatives will “rebuild muscle, support the digestive track and immune system”? Please explain to me why this is being marketed to sick patients instead of being told to go home and eat some healthy protein and vegetables! And yet… that is the “radical” idea nowadays. Whoa… slow your roll! You want me to do WHAT? Eat real food!?
Most AND sponsors will look familiar to you, but let’s examine Aramark. Have you heard of them or know what they do? You have probably heard or seen the name, likely because their big truck arrives outside of your office to deliver loads of coffee, creamers and stock the kitchen with snacks. And though this is a pretty good company in terms of their environmental concerns and treatment of employees, I wouldn’t exactly call them “healthy” and top-notch in terms of food services, which they provide to businesses, shopping centers, universities, public schools, amusement parks, restaurants, ball parks, stadiums and resorts. When you buy school lunch, it probably comes from Aramark. When you buy a hot dog or giant pretzel at the Orioles game, it’s probably supplied via Aramark. When my Aunt was living out her final days in a rehabilitation facility battling colon cancer and being served some “salisbury steak” concoction with pudding and cake… it was supplied by Aramark. I’m not trying to bring the company down, in fact, there are some very good things about Aramark in particular, as in fact they were named “2013 Most Ethical Companies” by Ethisphere, noting their sustainable practices. And in comparison to the other companies on AND sponsorship and partner lists, they are probably one of the healthiest and intentionally source better quality. That’s nice… and good for them, I think ethics and sustainability (likely in regards to their uniforms services) are something that lack in many large corporations, so they deserve a kudos. But I wouldn’t exactly want my education (or counsel) on nutrition coming from a company that sources shitty ballpark food, for lack of better term. When they start supplying hospitals with higher quality foods and partnering with local farms, I will change my tune.
Next: Pepsi and Coca Cola… we recognize these corporations as the giant machines supplying our thirsty planet with liquid sugar, corn syrup and caramel coloring.
Katie Bayne, Coca-Cola’s 45-year-old president of sparkling beverages (I love the spin they put on that title… instead of soda beverages, sugar beverages, or caffeine beverages… “sparkling beverages”) in North America responds to a reporter on USA Today in this article. Here’s one snippit:
Q: Is anyone at Coca-Cola trying to figure out a way to get sugar out of all drinks?
A: “There is a large portion of the population that relies on the carbohydrates and energy in our regular beverages. When my son gets home from school, he needs a pick-up with calories and great taste.”
Now wait just a tick…. did Honey Boo-Boo’s mom get a job at Coca-Cola?
Am I – and are you – expected to buy the fact that she honestly believes a can of carbonated sugar, caffeine, syrup, phosphoric acid and synthetic food colors are the best “pick me up” for a child when he gets home from school? That is seriously pushing the envelope, but we’re not calling her out? And she’s trying to convince us that kids need a “pick me up” of soda at 4pm?
I repeat, this was the same message given in one of Coca-Cola’s nutrition courses at the AND (yes, nutrition course by Coca-Cola) “sugar is not harmful to children, and federal nutrition standards for school meals are too restrictive.” <—- your registered dietitian probably took that course. And to even say that federal nutrition standards are “too restrictive” simply blows my mind. Have you seen those standards?
General Mills, which has over 100 consumer brands including Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Toaster Strudels, Betty Crocker baking mixes, Yoplait yogurts, Totinos Pizza Rolls, Haagan Dazs, FiberOne, Nature Valley, Hamburger Helper, Bisquick and Pillsbury. Did you know that ONE company owns all of those brands? And that one company, who likes to buy up other companies, serves as a sponsor to the AND, who educates the professional dietitians who tell you what to eat. And Kellogg’s, which provides us with Cheez-itz, Pringles, PopTarts and Kashi, like to get in on the sponsorship action, too. Here’s a visual illustration of the sponsors and their brands:
And you wonder why a company like Mars, who supplies the world with gum and candy (Snickers, M&M’s, TWIX, Skittles, Starburst, Extra, ORBIT, etc), would want to sponsor and get involved with an organization like The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics!
Honestly… why? What in the world does candy have to do with the largest authority on nutrition? Or as the Academy would say “Delivering Academy-approved nutrition messages to a wider consumer audience than the Academy could reach using its own resources.” And more importantly -the quality of education registered dietitians receive via the AND and it’s sponsors? I could possibly see some of the other corporations offering up and sneaking in the “whole grain” and “heart healthy” content via FDA standards, but candy bars and chewing gum? No one sees or recognizes the huge conflict of interest here? What about the dietitians who attend conferences and extended courses with giant Snickers & Coca-Cola sponsorship signs and booths? They don’t think that’s weird?
Or what about a dietitian attending a conference, and not only walks through that showroom (seen above), but goes inside the large stadium room to sit through, and listen to a line-up of sponsor representatives who are there to deliver “cutting edge” resources and tools for the nation’s dietitians… and this is the backdrop of the speaker conference room:
What is going through the minds of RD’s when they attend a conference lecture delivered by the President of Hershey, and these 12ft tall banners are surrounding them? The very dietitians who return to work in their hometowns that week to work on new cases of diabetic patients. No one is calling bullshit here? Hemi Weingarten (www.fooducate.com) wrote about this 3 years ago, and I bet none of you heard a single peep out of any government officials, regulatory boards OR the FDA. Not one single voice of authority is calling B.S on the obvious conflicts of interest here. Maybe because Hershey (like other sponsors) branded a spin-off department and called it this: The Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition — and issues this press release statement for the AND: “The Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition develops and supports cutting-edge scientific research for products and technologies to provide consumers with a range of snacking choices, and will collaborate with ADA on consumer and health professional initiatives including an innovative, national consumer-focused nutrition education campaign.” They also have a campaign going called “Moderation Nation”… with helpful tools in achieving a balanced diet.
And about those FDA standards (ie, heart healthy, whole grain), I’ll need another article dedicated to exposing how many financial ties they (food manufacturers, medical and biotech companies, pharmaceutical companies and giant food corps) have with the FDA.. that’s another story. Corporate influence doesn’t stop at large organizations like the AND, they certainly have their beds made in the FDAas well.
ConAgra is another sponsor, and we don’t have to spend much time talking about them, however- just to give you further perspective, they are the company that gives us ReddyWhip, Marie Calendars, Wesson Canola, Vegetable and Corn oil, PAM, Manwhich, Kids Cuisine, SnackPack Pudding, PeterPan Peanut Butter, HealthyChoice, Egg Beaters, Fleischmann’s Margarine, Parkay and Bluebonnet margarines. (can I insert a fun little fact here real quick? Did you know that margarine is ONE MOLECULE away from plastic? And YOU eat it. And the story goes that BUTTER causes heart disease). Despite the above list of their products, this is their “dedicated to health” statement: “At ConAgra Foods, we know that food brings enjoyment to our lives and that our overall diet plays an important role in keeping us healthy. Our approach to nutrition and health is practical, realistic and focused on three broad areas: portion and calorie control, dietary variety, and heart health.” <—– Ironically, these were nearly word-for-word the same statements given to my mother by her dietitian when she learned she had Type II Diabetes. Food should be enjoyed! Just practice portion control and eat low fat!
As you visually cover the lists of sponsors, partners, educational partners and co-authors for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – the organization who educated and certified the dietitian working in your doctors’ office – you may get the sense as to why I strongly suggest a second opinion. I am not saying they are ALL wrong, or that your dietitian lacks merit or credibility. But I am saying that if you suspect the information given to you might have some holes in it, by all means go and do your own research! Get a second opinion. Just because someone has a title, doesn’t mean you have to let them make choices for you!
One problem moving forward, however, is that so many people are doing just that. So many people are second guessing their dietitians and seeking out the advice and expertise of other professionals that are not conjoined to the AND or their licensing boards. This is leading to an outcry from the AND, claiming there needs to be more laws and regulation on who is allowed to give out nutritional advice. Despite my education, and advanced certifications, they want to prevent people like me and other practitioners from doing our jobs because we are not associated by the AND. In other words; we are not giving out the advice that their sponsors want delivered to the masses.
They are using threatening language to get us to stop telling people they should eat REAL FOOD, calling it “call for public safety”. In other words, they are trying to limit market competition.
Enter Steve Cooksey, who actually had to fight the law in North Carolina in order to write in his own blog about how he reversed diabetes. And he never claimed to be a nutritionist or expert, he was simply sharing his journey toward weight loss, and lifestyle changes…. and the academy caught wind of it and fought hard (and is still fighting) to shut him down!
I’m not licensed by the AND, and I didn’t take any courses on nutrition at my university. For the record, I studied Criminal Justice and Forensic Psychology, as this career wasn’t initially part of the plan (obviously). I furthered my interest in nutrition after a decade of personal research for my own health. Eventually, I obtained several advanced certifications and started my journey through the CHEK Institute’s practitioner program. I opted out of the University-education for this topic for some serious reasons: a major one is because I followed the AND’s advice after being diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2001… and all I got out of the deal was a shit-ton of prescription medications, emergency room visits, chronic inflammation, pain, insomnia, anxiety, flare ups and even more medical diagnosis’ to simply explain why I wasn’t getting better. Despite reading numerous conflicting scholarly articles for YEARS, I still took the advice my doctors and specialists prescribed. I got frustrated enough to break out on my own and finally bite the bullet by trusting my instincts. After all, what I was doing was NOT working. I had nothing to lose. It wasn’t until then that I actually improved my health. I knew that if I became a university-educated RD, I would be forced to regurgitate the very advice that got me sick in the first place. Here’s the conversation I had with an RD after my GI informed me I had a confirmed case of Celiac Disease:
Me: what is gluten?
RD: it’s a thickener, like flour.
Me: so why or how do I avoid it?
RD: well, you have to avoid wheat because that’s gluten. You can’t digest it.
Me: how do I not eat wheat? like… what do I eat?
RD: it would be best for you to google it.
True story. That actually happened. (and I know this contributes to a stereotype and further perpetuates my slight bias, but she was also significantly overweight with hair growing on her chin). So the AND wants to call other practitioners such as holistic coaches, nutritionists, naturopaths, chiropractors and holistic nutritionists a threat to public safety? How about the hospital staff feeding jell-o and carrot cake to cancer patients who just had 1/4 of their bowels removed? Or the RD who told my diabetic mother to eat low fat, whole grains and spoons of peanut butter before bed? Or the RD’s and doctors telling diabetic, heart disease, and high blood pressure & cholesterol patients to fill 1/2 of their daily intakes with bagels, toast, oatmeal, muffins, whole grain pastas and breads?
I don’t want to make all RDs appear like the villain. I don’t think any of them go into their fields to misinform the public. I know of many who have pursued further education and sought out better quality information and research about nutrition and health. I know that current students and grads are receiving much more up-to-date scientific information around their field, but the mystery of those particular sponsors continues to bother me. And then there are the nutritionists that have been in this field for a long time, got their education 15-20 years ago and are still regurgitating that information from decades-old, since-debunked science while getting their certs renewed via credits at these conferences. For example, this year’s Annual Nutritionist’s Confab was sponsored (and catered) by McDonalds. That can be confirmed.
You should not discredit every professional who has worked hard for their career, but you can question them, and you can challenge them. Be your own advocate. The doctor or dietitian is NOT the end of the line. They are not THE authority. You are. And in fact, a good RD will agree.