A Follow Up: Should You Trust Dietitians?

Well, we can all agree on one thing: nutrition news and advice comes from many mouths, and it’s not easy to know which ones to trust. I wrote this post about who we do trust, or at least where most people seem to click, for dietary advice, in which I stated that registered dietitians should be one of your go-to sources. Depending on who you talk to, that’s a loaded declaration.

Real Talk, first

I’m not a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), our profession’s governing body. My previous employer wouldn’t reimburse the cost of membership, and nope, I wasn’t willing to pay out-of-pocket. Tax deductible or not, I had no interest. Up to that point, AND had not proven themselves a reliable, unbiased source of nutrition information and I don’t 100% agree with their positions. I’m still not a member, but I do attend conferences held by practice groups within AND in the interest of networking and continuing education credits (most of which I should seek elsewhere, because as you may have guessed, many of these sessions are funded by food and/or supplement companies).

But also, in case you hadn’t heard, AND has a pretty bad rep. You may or may not recall the Academy slapping a “Kids Eat Right” label on Kraft Singles – a cheese “product” that many Americans are too familiar with – last year, much to the chagrin of its members and non-members alike. This move made the news quickly; dietitians and public health advocates petitioned it quickly; it was repealed. If I started to list every time the Academy has made a decision in the name of Big Food and big money, but tried to disguise it as public health, this post would be a book. You get it, though.

ETA: I know and respect many RDs who are part of AND that also stand against many of their past practices and decisions. Sometimes you have to fight from within, too! 

Yesterday, someone commented via Twitter that it’s not “obvious” to trust a registered dietitian for nutrition news, that actually “there’s nothing obvious about trusting dietitians.” A little harsh, but not a false statement entirely.

Should you always trust a registered dietitian’s take on nutrition?

I get why people question registered dietitians’ nutrition philosophies, why they assume an RD’s message may be fueled by industry money, biased research, and dated beliefs around nutrition. I don’t trust my own profession’s governing body, so, yeah, I can see how it’s not the go-to reaction to take what every dietitian has to say without question. And that’s completely valid, for more reasons than one.  

We go to multiple doctors to get a second, third, or fourth opinion on an illness or injury. We read the New York Times and Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, to hear what more than journalist has to say about current affairs. We follow more than one person on Twitter who talks about running, or nutrition, or strength training, or “the news.” It’s rare that one person, or type of profession, is the only source of information on any given topic, nutrition included.

The immediate problem

What I said in this post was that you should seek out credentialed professionals, “such as registered dietitians,” for nutrition news and updates. The message I meant to get across was that, as stated, when it comes to health news, advice, tips, the cleanse-du-jour, the general public is more lured by celebrity than credentials, by physical appearances than actual education or knowledge. It’s a problem. It affects the state of public health and dilutes the quality of nutrition information out there. 

Should you only turn to dietitians? Nope. Scientists, public health professionals, PhDs, and even some medical doctors also have a lot to say about nutrition.

The bigger problem

The extent to which we need to understand nutrition for general health doesn’t lend itself to exciting news headlines. As the prolific food author and activist Michael Pollan so simply put it, “Eat foods. Mostly plants. Not too much.” He has sold millions of books on that message in different forms. Jokes on us, but they’re pretty good reads!

Don’t assume that catchy (or the scare tactic) headlines, “nutritionists” selling their latest book or product or cleanse, or celebrities like Dr. Oz are giving you any advice worth hearing.

So, here we are…

If you’re interested in nutrition science, read the studies, not the news. If you want to know more about what the results of the studies mean, find a dietitian, or other highly educated and/or credentialed nutrition mind to chat with. Your choice! (My inbox is always open!) If you’re interested in improving your health, start by taking an inventory on how much of your diet is made up of whole foods, and consider working with someone 1:1 who can help you figure out what works best for your lifestyle.

 FWIW, there is also this organization for dietitians: Dietitians for Professional Integrity 

Of note: I don’t call myself “the doctor” or frequently drink whiskey (more of a wino, myself), but I find this {featured image} Someecard entertaining and pretty appropriate here. 

Comments

  1. May 10, 2016

    So many good points- going to check out the Dietitians for Professional Integrity group now- thanks for sharing!

  2. May 10, 2016

    Great post and so true. For the average person looking in, it’s hard to tell good from bad.
    I wish there was way we could unify the message and make it easier for the public to understand. Keep on preaching the good word!

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