Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Where are all the dietitians?

I was walking home from work the other day thinking about how great it is to see organizations like Doctors Nova Scotia and the Ontario Medical Association calling for action against energy drinks and obesity, respectfully. That got me to thinking about the fact that these are both very much issues pertaining to food. So where are the dietitians in all of this? Oh sure, you have a number of us mouthing off as individuals about these issues but where are the orchestrated efforts by our governing bodies?

As far as I can tell, from my time as a registered dietitian in both Ontario and in Nova Scotia, our provincial professional organizations don’t do much for us, let alone for the betterment of all provincial residents. They take our money, investigate if complaints are filed against us, and send out the occasional newsletter (at least they’re not promoting the food industry like Dietitians of Canada, but membership with DC is optional). I know we don’t have the same numbers as doctors do but surely to goodness we could be doing more.

I’d like to see the Nova Scotia Dietetic Association pushing for legislation regarding food security, the built environment, obesity, support of local agriculture, to name a few. And while I’m at it, I’d like to see them advocate for us dietitians. Why is it that many health plans cover scientifically unproven therapies such as naturopaths and acupuncture yet they won’t cover dietitian services which so many people could benefit from?

If anyone has a suggestion on how we can get our provincial professional organizations working for us I’d love to hear it!

Update on March 8, 2013: I was in contact with the NSDA and was asked to removed my comments pertaining to the NSDA from my blog. I was going to revise this post but I have decided to add this note instead. Unfortunately, the role of the NSDA is mandated by the government. As such, they are unable to engage in activities beyond those for which they are mandated. Apparently, advocacy is not one of their mandated activities. I apologise to the NSDA for suggesting they act in an area outside of their jurisdiction. Clearly, there is a gap in provincial dietitian organizations. With the formation of the Dietitian’s Network of Nova Scotia I hope that we will see this change.


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Regulating energy drinks

I was pleased to read that Doctors Nova Scotia is pushing for a ban on the sale of energy drinks to minors (i.e. anyone under the age of 19). They’re also calling for better labelling of energy drinks. In my previous life as a public health dietitian in Ontario this is something I wanted to push for. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in our operational plan for the year so I never had a chance to (ah, bureaucracy).

I’ve been told stories of parents feeding every drinks to their children before sporting competitions. I’ve also heard from parents of children suffering adverse reactions (seizures, death) following the consumption of energy drinks. Children do not need these high levels of caffeine. Health Canada recommends no more than 2.5 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight a day. This amount can be easily exceeded with just one energy drink. They can contain up to 400 mg of caffeine.

One of the tricky things about energy drinks, under the current legislation, is that they only have to list the added caffeine on the label. All of the caffeine that comes from “natural” sources like yerba mate. Also, as with any food or beverage, you need to make sure that the serving size corresponds with the amount that you’re actually consuming. If there’s two servings per can and you drink a whole can then you’re getting (at least) twice as much caffeine as is listed on the label.

I hope that Doctors Nova Scotia are successful in their bid to change the regulations surrounding energy drinks. People can complain about nanny states all they want but until they’re grown-up (or in the case of adults act like grown-ups) then a nanny may be just what they need.