Today’s statement of concern comes from Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT (Twitter handle: @PlantDietitian):
“Anthropologist Sydney Mintz explains, “Our understanding of how food habits change, both historically and at the present time, remains incomplete….Hardly anywhere, apparently, is the value of change from one way of eating to another carefully weighed or questioned by consumers…”
He also cautions us to analyze the advice of doctors and other professionals to see where that advice is coming from and what is its scientific basis. One of the predominant reasons we are in the midst of a global healthcare crisis with never-before-seen epidemic levels of obesity and chronic disease is because of the onslaught of nutrition misinformation. The most critical resources accountable for dispensing scientifically sound nutrition facts are healthcare professionals and their guiding organizations.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) is the organization heading Registered Dietitians, the nation’s nutrition experts. Yet they are proudly sponsored by companies like The National Dairy Council, Coca Cola, and PepsiCo. It begs the question of how it could be possible to make objective dietary recommendations with huge corporate sponsors funding the work.
I love my profession and have always been passionate about nutrition, especially when I began living and teaching whole food, plant-based eating seven years ago. I have been a member of AND since graduate school in 1998, even though I was shocked at my first (and only) experience attending a FNCE conference as a student. When I walked into the expo, all wide-eyed and open as a sponge, the loud sponsorship and inundation of unhealthful advertisement throughout the event felt like the rug was pulled out from under me. Healthy sausages? My new chic shopping bag with Equal’s logo emblazoned upon it behind the Academy’s logo? (I still have that bag and it reminds me of how ironic our food culture is.) McDonald’s recruiting dietitians for health education? It was almost a backwards world…a Wacky Wednesday, if you will.
How can fast food and junk food companies be allowed to provide health guidelines when their products are undoubtedly (at least partially) responsible for the majority of chronic diseases, food addiction, and obesity in the country? I was given so much propaganda and swag emphasizing cherry-picked facts and exploding with nutritionism, ripe for consumer confusion.
Although I have not been able to attend that conference nor the McDonald’s-sponsored California Dietetic Association events since, I remain a member for the opportunity to communicate with likeminded RDs in the Vegetarian Practice Group and because I find hope in things like the fact that I was recently asked to participate in a twitter chat on vegan nutrition through AND. I also maintain optimism in the fact that science-based nutrition is pointing undoubtedly towards a whole food, plant-based diet as the ideal diet for optimal health, that consumers will begin to have more access to clarity
People ask me how to become a plant-based dietitian at least three to five times per week. The common concern is the industry ties to nutrition education and policy, and people ask how it is possible to withstand the bias. I always respond that the education is absolutely worth it and to see it as a means to an end. But I do understand how tricky it may be to navigate the sponsored guidelines and clear skewing of health facts. Ideally, a fresh generation of potential RD’s will encourage AND to rethink its policies.
My hope is that AND will recognize the huge potential in letting go of such industry-related ties so that we can move into a new paradigm where science is guided by science, and not by money. Where information and guidelines can be offered without accountability to dissonant and conflicting companies. That is when AND will be most effective and advantageous and could lead the population towards greater health.”