The Alliance for Natural Health’s Really Eat Right campaign was one of this week’s nutrition hot topics.
Of special interest was the group’s petition, which addresses concerns over the American Dietetic Association’s collusion with ‘Big Food’ and ‘Big Pharma’, as well as the organization’s “multi-state legislative effort[s] to monopolize nutritional therapy through legislative initiates.”
While I do not see eye-to-eye with ANH on every issue, I am in full agreement with this one.
In response, ADA sent out an e-mail to all members, citing “a new negative online campaign containing a barrage of accusations toward ADA [by a] group dedicated to undermining ADA’s licensure efforts and the RD credential, with little concern for the welfare of the public.”
As a member of ADA, I felt insulted and patronized by that e-mail. Not only did it conveniently avoid the PepsiCo-sponsored elephant in the room (the “accusations” about Big Food sponsorship are well-known facts, not gossip), they also misrepresented the intentions of ANH’s campaign.
One of the listserves I am a member of (the Hunger & Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group’s) brought up this issue for discussion; below, the response I shared (with a few edits for clarity):
“This is undoubtedly a hot-button issue that leads to very strong opinions, but I wanted to add my two cents.
First, I agree with Michele Simon that this petition would be more successful if it separated the two issues. I know some RDs would sign it if it solely focused on ADA’s corporate sponsorships. As far as licensure is concerned, it is an issue I have heard both sides of; I initially thought it was a good idea to “protect our credential”, but after some more thinking and discussion, I have my reservations.
Even though I am an RD, I don’t think RDs are the only people qualified to dole out nutrition advice. I know individuals with Masters and Doctoral degrees in nutrition/public health who do not have the RD credential and are beyond qualified (more so than many RDs I know). Let’s not forget that Marion Nestle — who is not an RD — is, rightfully so, one of this country’s foremost nutrition authorities. I would be hard pressed to find anyone who would argue she isn’t “qualified” to speak on nutrition issues simply because she didn’t complete a dietetic internship.
I definitely think there needs to be some sort of exam or governing body that grants all nutrition professionals a credential provided they prove competency, but the current one that is supposed to be the golden standard (the DI and RD exam) has several problems. Large portions of the Dietetic Internship and RD Exam have little relevance to the nutrition profession and are entrenched in food politics rather than nutrition science (for my full thoughts on this matter, please read “point number 5″ of this post).
I was quite fortunate during my dietetic internship in that I had very forward-thinking preceptors (you can’t imagine my relief when an RD at a renowned heart health clinic spoke with patients about the cardiovascular benefits of coconut oil), but some of my peers had preceptors teaching them low-fat diets and pushing artificial sweeteners. I recall one of my fellow interns telling me she brought up concerns over corn oil’s GMO and high omega-6 content to one of her preceptors after I brought it up as a talking point in one of our weekly meetings, only to be scoffed at and told that “corn oil is an unsaturated fat [, so therefore it is heart-healthy].”
Are there individuals out there who call themselves nutritionists after taking a 6-hour weekend course who know next to nothing and give terrible advice? Absolutely. Does the fact that someone is a ‘holistic nutritionist’ automatically make them an authority? No. At the same time, there are RDs who advocate for chocolate milk, turkey bacon, and “Splenda With Antioxidants”. I understand that clinical positions are usually better suited for RDs since most internships have significant clinical components, but I don’t think RDs should monopolize nutrition counseling, outreach, and education.
The “RDs are the ONLY ones who know best!” approach carries the risk of our profession becoming highly insular, cutting ourselves off from peers in other faculties who we can learn from. The biggest albatross is how the organization that is supposed to represent us — and have our best interests in mind — sells us out to the highest bidder. I find the RD credential much more “under attack” by RDs who shill for PepsiCo and the Corn Refiners Association than by a well-informed, capable naturopath who doles out nutrition advice.”
I am a member of the ADA because I value my Registered Dietitian credential. I value it so much that I am passionate about it being respected, especially by the organization that grants it. When I walk into an ADA conference expo floor and see some of the nutritional atrocities I do, I can’t help but feel the credential is not taken seriously. If the ADA is so intent on protecting the sanctity of the RD credential, I suggest it turn its gaze inward and clean its own home first. They should see these ‘controversies’ not as attacks, but as accurate criticisms that help point out why their own actions have undercut the ADA’s reputation and credibility.