Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


3 Comments

Is it #NutritionMonth2019 or #DairyFarmersofCanadaMonth and #AvocadosofMexicoMonth?

Screen Shot 2019-03-09 at 8.13.31 PM

We need to talk about Nutrition Month. More specifically, we need to talk about Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month recipes. It’s been a long time (back in 2012 to be specific) since I wrote about the issue of sponsorship in regard to DC’s Nutrition Month materials. To be honest, I feel like a bit of a traitor doing it (DC does many great things to advocate for dietitians), but I think that it’s a real issue. Accepting sponsorship for Nutrition Month is undermining DC’s (and by association all Canadian dietitian’s) credibility.

When DC first released their Nutrition Month recipes I was disappointed, but not surprised, to see that they were sponsored by Dairy Farmers of Canada and Avocados from Mexico. Don’t get me wrong, I consume both dairy and avocados. This is not to cast aspersions on either of those foods. However, I think that a dietetic organization accepting sponsorship from the food industry (no matter what the foods are) creates a conflict of interest. I also think that there are additional reasons why featuring these particular foods in DC resources is problematic. I’ll get into that a little later. So, as I said, I wasn’t surprised. This is nothing new for DC. I had a little rant with my RD colleagues (one of whom also happened to point out that the content of the handouts, aside from the recipes was simply duplicated from last year, sigh) and then let it go.

My frustration was reignited last week when fellow RD, Pamela Fergusson voiced her concern about the industry sponsorship of Nutrition Month on Instagram last week. She’s also written an excellent blog post about this issue that you should read.

23942.jpg

That got me curious so I went on the Nutrition Month website and counted how many times dairy and avocados appear in their featured recipes. Out of ten recipes, eight include dairy and four include avocados. There are 12 additional recipes on their handouts, eleven of these include dairy and six include avocados. That’s a lot of dairy and avocados!

While I love avocados, they are freaking expensive. They’re usually about $2 a piece at the grocery store here. Given that food insecurity is an issue across Canada, DC even has position papers on both individual and household and community food insecurity, it struck me as a little inappropriate for them to so prominently feature a food that’s not within the budget for many Canadians. Even for those who don’t struggle with food insecurity, avocados are often more of a luxury item than a staple food. The same goes for many dairy products, particularly cheese, which is featured in many of the DC Nutrition Month recipes. Realistically, who’s making a “crab and remoulade sandwich” for lunch??

In addition to the issue of cost, there’s the lack of alignment with the new Food Guide. Despite what many people would have you believe, milk (and dairy products) have not been removed from the new Food Guide. They’ve simply been incorporated into the new “protein foods” grouping. However, there is a strong emphasis on choosing plant-based sources of protein more often. I realize that DC would have already developed their resources before the new Food Guide came out. Even so, the old Food Guide only recommended two servings of milk (and alternatives) daily for adults. No matter which Food Guide you look at, it doesn’t make sense that DC would feature dairy in the majority of their Nutrition Month recipes.

This takes me to one last issue that I stumbled upon while tallying up the recipes featuring dairy and/or avocados. That issue is the nutrition information for the Turmeric Basil Roasted Turkey Burger. This burger contains 936 calories, 48 grams of fat (9.1 g of which are saturated), and 773 mg of sodium. To put that in perspective, that’s 416 more calories and 20 grams more fat than are in a big mac (177 mg less sodium though). It’s about 3/4 of a day’s recommended maximum intake of fat and over 1/3 of the maximum recommended intake for sodium. That’s just in one burger! I thought for sure this had to be a mistake so I tweeted at DC to ask them about it. This is the reply I received:

6C9833A8-57D1-4F39-BA2C-D8B025E2D23E

A “hearty” burger indeed! As much as I believe that all foods fit and that having treats is part of a healthy diet, I really don’t think that a recipe like this is appropriate for a dietetic organization to be promoting. When people are looking for recipes from Dietitians of Canada they’re looking for recipes that meet certain nutrition criteria. They’re looking for recipes that are going to provide them with a reasonable number of calories, not too much fat or salt or sugar and plenty of vitamins and minerals. I think it undermines their credibility as an organization when they allow sponsors (such as Avocados of Mexico who developed this recipe) to be put ahead of the public who rely on dietitians for unbiased nutrition information.


4 Comments

Are dietitians getting too sexy?

-Miracle_Cure!-_Health_Fraud_Scams_(8528312890).jpg

A few years ago I wrote a blog post that really hit a nerve with other dietitians. It was about how dietitians just aren’t sexy. This was in the sense that we don’t hop on trends (unlike other unregulated professionals) and instead are moored in evidence-based practice. Unfortunately, I’m noticing a disturbing trend in dietetics and I’m concerned about the future of my profession.

There have always been some dietitians who believe in unproven practices such as detox, fad diets, and questionable supplements. It’s a shame to see others promoting such nonsense as I feel it reflects poorly on all of us but it’s always been the minority. It’s also been somewhat understandable because it can be a tough field in which to find a secure job. And we probably all have some beliefs that aren’t based in evidence. Experience is important in combination with scientific evidence. However, I feel like in this age of fake news where nothing means anything anymore, that this is infiltrating dietetics at a higher level.

Recently there’s been the introduction of “integrative functional nutrition” which sounds very scientific and pretty great, “A central theme of IFNA training is learning to identify “root causes” of disease in a methodical and systematic fashion rather than the mundane prescription of medical nutrition protocols based on a diagnosis”. Who doesn’t want to get to the root causes of illnesses? I think the main frustration with Western medicine is that there’s often a failure to dig deeper to find the root cause for ailments and simply a treating of symptoms. This is why so many people turn to unscientific alternative health practitioners for help. Unfortunately, “integrative functional nutrition/medicine” tends to be code for the smooshing together evidence-based practices and unproven unscientific practices. The creation of bodies of dietetics incorporating these practices lends false credibility to them.

Last week I attended a nutrition conference. It was generally a really great conference with presenters sharing a variety of perspectives and evidence. There were also presentations by people with lived experience. I think there’s a great deal of value in learning from people who have experience with various conditions, circumstances, illnesses, etc. However, the final presenter was by an individual who had “cured” a severe mental illness through nutrition and supplements with the aid of a Christian doctor in the US. I’m not in a position to question this person’s experience but the presentation made me extremely uncomfortable. I don’t doubt that nutrition plays an important role in supporting mental health. Although I do doubt that we can cure most cases of mental illness through nutrition.

As dietitians, we are always trying to promote ourselves as credible sources of nutrition information. Yet here we are, welcoming a presentation from an individual who was treated by a doctor whom would be dubbed as a quack by most. This guy readily fails Dietitians of Canada’s “Five tips to help you spot misinformation“.

1. Is the person or product promising a quick fix like fast weight-loss or a miracle cure? Check!

2. Are they trying to sell you products such as special foods or supplements? Check!

3. Do they provide information based on personal stories rather than on facts? Check!

4. Is their claim based on a single study or a few research studies? Not sure if the claims are based on any research so yeah, Check!

5. What are the person’s qualifications? Unfortunately, he’s a medical doctor which makes it sound like he’s a qualified professional. But we all know that doesn’t stop Dr Oz from operating outside of his scope of practice. Being a MD doesn’t necessarily mean that an individual is qualified to be providing nutrition services (most doctors receive very little nutrition education during medical school). As far as I can discern, he hasn’t received any specialized nutrition education so… CHECK!

Inviting people who are promoting such quackery to professional conferences undermines our credibility as nutrition professionals. It lends false credibility to their practices and allows these unproven beliefs to infiltrate dietetics. It makes it harder for us to present ourselves as credible nutrition professionals and undermines the ability of the public to trust us.

It’s discouraging to see people seeking out healthcare from unregulated professionals with questionable credentials and practices. But I don’t think the solution lies in taking the attitude that if you can’t beat them, join them. It’s important for us to continue to ground our advice in the best possible scientific evidence if we want to remain trusted healthcare professionals. Otherwise we may as well all burn our degrees and licences because they’ll become as meaningless as the credentials of all the self-styled nutrition gurus.


2 Comments

Follow Friday: Dietitians of Canada

1 in 8 households

It makes me so happy to see that Dietitians of Canada are taking a more active advocacy role. With the (eventually) upcoming federal election in the fall they’ve called on all federal party leaders to commit to a national strategy to reduce food insecurity and increased access to dietitian services.

If you’re interested in supporting their efforts or want to see the party responses, just click on the link above.


1 Comment

Follow Friday: Dietitian services

dc_infographic_eng

Did you know that many employers don’t offer dietitian services as part of their employee health plans? Considering that food and nutrition are vital to good health and productive employees our services should be covered by health plans. If your employer doesn’t cover our services please let them know that you’d like them too!


8 Comments

Follow Friday: Dietitians for Professional Integrity

I started this blog as an outlet to rant about nutrition myths and other nutrition-related topics that raised my ire. I may not always state things in the most diplomatic manner. My goal is to get people thinking and questioning things and sometimes I voice my opinions in a provocative manner to do so. If I’m wrong about a topic or if there is no “right” or “wrong” but you have a differing opinion I’m happy to hear it and will post it in the comments section for others to obtain additional viewpoints.

One of my top ranting topics has been Dietitians of Canada and their symbiotic relationship with the food industry. As such, I’m more than happy to throw my support behind an initiative out of the US (who are experiencing similar issues with their national dietetic organization: the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) called Dietitians for Professional Integrity. Please go and “like” their Facebook page. If you are a dietitian, I urge you to consider contributing a Statement of Concern or simply to share your personal experiences on their wall.

It took me a few weeks to muster up the courage and write my Statement of Concern (posted below). The retweets, comments of support, and new followers help me to feel confident that I’m doing the right thing. If we don’t stand-up for ourselves and what we believe in we will never see the change that we desire. Let’s work together to make our national dietetic organizations what we need them to be. Kudos to RD Andy Bellatti for spearheading this campaign.

Statement of Concern:

I’ve had a couple of fellow RDs ask me to submit a statement of concern to support the efforts of Dietitians for Professional Integrity in their efforts to pry Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and Dietitians of Canada back out of the pockets of the food industry. A recent event has made me feel both less comfortable with doing this and obligated to do this.

 

When I was student I was a member of DC. I wanted to be involved and obtain current nutrition information from our national organization. It was also an asset when applying to internship programs. However, I was disgusted with the amount of propaganda I received in the mail. Every single package I received from DC contained information from food industry sponsors. I received numerous coupons (includes ones for bologna!), which I was suggested to “share with clients”. After I was accepted into the internship program I allowed my membership to lapse, as I was uncomfortable with the ties between DC and the food industry.

 

I have been vocally critical of DC on my personal blog over the past year and a half. I don’t think that it’s appropriate for an organization that is comprised of nutrition professionals and students to receive sponsorship from the food industry. I view this as a major conflict of interest. How can we be viewed as credible providers of nutritional best practice if we’re funded by the food industry?

 

Apparently, I’ve stepped on some toes with my comments. That brings me to the recent event that compelled me to add my voice to this cause. It was suggested to me, by my provincial dietetic association, that I remove my comments about DC from my blog. I was told that these comments were unprofessional and did a disservice to dietitians (among other things). After much consideration I decided that this attempt to silence me would instead provide me with the impetus to raise my voice more loudly. If we are not allowed to have a critical discourse, and not allowed to comment on actions of an organization that is meant to represent us, how will we ever see positive change?