Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Big Brother Controls Nutritional Advice

How would you feel if the government controlled who can and cannot give you nutritional and dietary advice? I don’t think we want the government controlling nutritional information do you? Well, if you live in the state of Michigan, a law passed in 2006 makes it unlawful to give nutritional or dietary advice unless the practitioner is a licensed nutritionist or dietician. However, the rules of this law are still being decided upon and the law hasn’t been fully enacted yet. Unfortunately, Michigan is not the only state passing idiotic laws. Many other states have passed similarly idiotic laws. You may be thinking, this is not so bad. Why can’t a nutritionist or dietician simply apply for a license? Well, this is the really crazy part. In Michigan, the group that lobbied and pushed the bill (Public Act 333) to pass was the Michigan Dietetic Association (MDA) which is part of the American Dietetic Association. The American Dietetic Association is an organization of food and nutrition professionals. Approximately 75% of its members are registered dieticians (RD’s). The ADA claims that it strives to improve the nation’s health and advance the profession of dietetics through research, education, and advocacy. If only that were true. It makes you wonder, since their corporate sponsors/partners include Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola, Mars, Hershey’s, General Mills, and others.

The Governor of Michigan appointed five Registered Dietitians (RD’s) to the Michigan Dietetics and Nutrition Board to write the specific rules of the law. Take a guess who the Board wants to allow to be credentialed to provide nutrition and dietary advice? You probably guessed right—RD’s, or those who obtain a nearly identical course of study.

My experience with RD’s has not been good. Most are lacking in basic skills on nutrition and health. I have seen the educational requirements for obtaining an RD. I am not impressed at all. It is a very weak program with too much focus on food service management. RD’s are in every hospital in the United States in charge of developing the meal plans. When I worked in the hospital as a resident physician, I was amazed patients could get better with the poor quality food that was served to them. I could not believe there were professionals responsible for those poor food choices.

As a holistic physician I have been terribly disappointed at the food and nutritional recommendations of the ADA. The ADA is partially responsible for the obesity epidemic we currently are suffering through. An article in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (March 2005) was titled, “A look at the educational preparation of the health-diagnosing and treating professions: Do dieticians measure up?” After reading this article, the answer to the above question is clear; RD’s do not measure up. The authors stated, “Basic education requirements for dieticians were developed almost 80 years ago and remain largely unchanged.” I agree with this analysis. Now, this is not an indictment of all RD’s. Some RD’s, who have spent their own time to learn about nutrition (since they are not taught properly in their own training programs), are more than adequate to give appropriate nutritional advice.

We do not want any one group, RD’s included, in charge of our nutritional advice at the expense of nutritionists such as Certified Clinical Nutritionist (CCN) or Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) or Holistic Health Counselor (HHC). All of these nutritionists took classes and passed exams to obtain their certification. Does having a certificate mean a person is well versed in nutrition? Absolutely not. That depends on the person. But, I can assure you, it is not wise to have one group (RD’s) control the whole process, especially if that group has suboptimal training in nutrition. My experience has shown that many CCN’s or other people with other certifying degrees can provide adequate nutritional advice. I say, let’s let the individual patient decide if they want to seek advice from anyone about diet and nutrition. We don’t need Big Brother deciding who we can and cannot see.

So, what can we do? In Michigan, the Michigan Nutrition Association (MNA) has been formed to fight this law and positively influence the rule making process, or amend/repeal the law if necessary. The MNA is a non-profit group whose desire is to promote nutrition and healthcare through a competitive, open and transparent system. This sounds good to me. Please to go the MNA website to donate to help this group keep choices open to the public. Their website is:

Parts of this article was adapted from Sustainable Health (Sept-December, 2010) by Judy Stone, CN, MSW. And,thank you to Coco Newton, an enlightened and very knowledgeable RD, who helped me edit this article.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home