January 5, 2017

Dietitians Role in Diabetes and Obesity

It is becoming clearer that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) is increasingly complicit in the epidemic in the United States of diabetes and obesity.

With about 70 million people in the United States either with or undiagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it is undeniable that they have great influence in the dietary guidelines published every five years by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services.

The number of times staff and officers of AND have been discovered promoting junk food is surprising.

Recently, the AND organization has stopped showing who they receive funds from on their website. They list a few sponsors, but leave most off the list. Now they want us to believe they are not shills for Big Food.

The other problem AND has created is a problem for diabetes education when a person has two titles – Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and Registered Dietitian (RD). When they are supposed to be teaching diabetes education, the RD is instead instructed to teach nutrition as the education and then they attempt to double bill insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid for both.

All dietitian advice is brought to you by their sponsors and has been for a very long time. Now that it’s becoming more blatant, maybe the public will finally figure out that being a dietitian is akin to being a corporate big food representative. During the months of February and March, 2015, AND started promoting Kraft Singles, the individually wrapped slices of “cheese product” popular in school lunches. This is the first product to boast the AND’s new “Kids Eat Right” label. Kraft Singles are not cheese, but a combination of chemicals that represents fake cheese.

Then the Associated Press recently broke a story showing how dietitians were promoting small cans of Coca-Cola as a snack. Ben Sheidler, a Coca-Cola spokesman, compared the February, 2015, posts to product placement deals a company might have with TV shows. "We have a network of dietitians we work with," said Sheidler, who declined to say how much the company pays experts. "Every big brand works with bloggers or has paid talent."

With the current atmosphere within AND, I don't see much success coming from a group called Dietitians for Professional Integrity. The group has called for sharper lines to be drawn between dietitians and companies. Andy Bellatti, one of its founders, said companies court dietitians because they help validate corporate messages. And without corporate money, AND will continue to function as it will have complete control in the messages it allows and the dissenting group will be banned from AND.

Other companies including Kellogg and General Mills have used strategies like providing continuing education classes for dietitians, funding studies that burnish the nutritional images of their products and offering newsletters for health experts. PepsiCo Inc. has also worked with dietitians who suggest its Frito-Lay and Tostito chips in local TV segments on healthy eating. Others use nutrition experts in sponsored content, the American Pistachio Growers has quoted a dietitian for the New England Patriots in a piece on healthy snacks and recipes and Nestle has quoted its own executive in a post about infant nutrition.

If you are looking for safe nutrition advice, do not look to the members of AND or the Academy for safe nutritional information. They are a tool of big food and have been for many years, even before the name change. Maybe they are becoming too self-confident and will continue to throw any good reputation they may have out the window.

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