bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Follow Friday: How to win an argument with a nutritionist

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I don’t necessarily agree with all of the arguments made in this article (although I do agree with most). And I certainly don’t agree with the premise that many dietitians aren’t “basing their nutrition advice on the latest science”. And as fond as I am of science, I’m the first to admit that there are many flawed studies garnering far too much publicity. Despite all of this, I think that the post How to Win an Argument with a Nutritionist is worth a read. Thanks to a fellow RD for sharing it with me!


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Of wellness chats, dietitians, and L-Glutamine

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The other night I had my first exposure to a “wellness chat” on twitter. It was interesting to say the least. The guest* was a registered dietitian in the US. A few of her statements surprised me, and at least a few other RDs. The most surprising tweet read:

What to do when U have a craving? Have a balanced #PFC (protein, fat, carb) snack AND take an L-Glutamine capsule #cravingfree #wellnesschat

A few of us tweeted back at her asking for her to share a link to the research supporting the use of glutamine to reduce cravings. As far as I’m aware, none of us received a satisfactory response. The only response I saw to our requests for research to support her statement was: “Get your supplements where u like, just make sure they’re high quality for effective results.”  This response was also in reply to our expressed concerns that she is selling these supplements (among many others) on her website. In my mind that’s an ethical concern. No health care professional should be profiting from the sale of medications/supplements. It’s an obvious conflict of interest. It’s also a little baffling that she’s doing podcasts extolling the benefits of real food (while also patronizingly insulting many other dietitians by suggesting that we are “brainwashed” into following obsolete dogma taught in school and don’t keep up with current research. Odd, in Canada at least, as part of our professional standards we must demonstrate continued competence by keeping up with current research and new developments in the field) yet profiting from the promotion and sale of supplements.

But… Back to the glutamine issue. My first stop to answer this question was examine.com. They do a great job of slogging through all of the research to get the facts about supplements. The short version of what they say about glutamine is:

A conditionally essential amino acid, only appears to benefit the body as supplementation when otherwise deficient (vegans, vegetarians with low dairy intake) or during prolonged endurance exercise. Anecdotally reported to reduce sugar cravings.

Yes, anecdotally reported to reduce sugar cravings. That means that there is no actual research to support the use of glutamine to reduce sugar cravings. A search of google scholar shows that there are no scientific studies supporting the use of glutamine to reduce sugar cravings. As dietitians we have an obligation to employ evidence-based best practices. This means that we cannot ethically recommend unproven treatments or supplements. I’m not saying that glutamine doesn’t work to reduce sugar cravings. I’m saying that we have no evidence either way. Until there is evidence to support its use in reducing sugar cravings dietitians cannot ethically recommend its use for that purpose.

I have yet to meet a dietitian who fails to keep up to date with current research. It does a great disservice to our profession when one of our fellow RDs suggests that many of us are not up to speed and that she is somehow special and superior to others in the field  because she is “science-based”, especially when she is making recommendations that are not actually based in science. Please be wary of any healthcare professional who is profiting from selling you a cure.

 

*Name has been omitted to protect the guilty. This is something that I struggled a bit with. I decided not to identify the RD in question because I don’t want this to be viewed as a personal attack, it is not.


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More biased research on the wonders of walnuts

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The California Walnut Board’s been busy lately. The latest study funded by them, to be published in the June issue of The Journal of Nutrition, found that consumption of whole walnuts and walnut oil had a positive effect on blood vessel function following a meal as well as improving the effectiveness of HDL (the “good” cholesterol). This is all lovely but I have a few questions.

I wonder how walnuts and walnut oil fare in comparison to other nuts and oils. I also wonder if there are any long-term implications for these findings. A short-term effect of consumption of a food, both positive and negative, means little in the big picture. Sure, it may very well be true that consumption of walnuts improves cardiovascular health but such a small study (only 15 participants) over such a short period of time: 30 minutes, one hour, two hours, four hours and six hours after administration of treatments really doesn’t tell us much about the impact of walnut consumption on long-term health.

I complain about unscientific practices a lot but science like this is just as bad. Give me a large, long-term, double-blind, study with unbiased researchers and then we can talk about the miracles of walnuts.


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Follow Friday: PLoS Blogs

Interested in being on the cutting edge of science and research? You might want to check out PLoS blogs. PLoS stands for the Public Library of Science. Their blog network brings a diverse group of science and medicine bloggers together in one place and everything published on the site is is done under the Creative Commons Open Access Licence, so you can spread the knowledge to others. Blogs on the Network that you might especially enjoy are: Obesity Panacea and Speaking of Medicine.


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Blind faith versus science

What’s up with the hating on science lately? I’ve been noticing a number of people talking about science with disdain and it’s really getting under my skin. It’s as if there’s something superior about subscribing to unfounded treatments. And wanting scientific proof of the efficacy of a treatment is a lack of faith. When did healthcare become a religion? Why would someone say, “Oh, dietitians follow science” with a tone as if we’re a bunch of unenlightened atheists while they follow the true word of their holistic god. I’m open to new developments and if you can prove to me that there is some benefit (beyond a placebo, although admittedly placebos can be pretty powerful) to consuming whatever extract or supplement you’re extolling the virtues of then I’ll gladly change my tune. But is it really so wrong of me to want proof? Why should I blindly throw my money and support behind unproven remedies? And why can’t this dialogue go both ways? I watched those Food Matters documentaries. I want to hear all sides of a story. It baffles and frustrates me that so many people buy into this sort of thing. Not only without bothering to check out the validity of claims being made but wantonly ignoring evidence that goes against their viewpoints. I’m sorry but there is nothing virtuous about putting blind faith in unproven remedies and spurning science.

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