Marketing chips and other processed snack foods, sodas, and sugary GMO cereals to registered dietitians is part of big business. Registered dietitians have to keep taking continuing education courses to keep their licenses. So who’s offering a lot of the required continuing education seminars? It’s not organic produce farmers. It’s the largest food manufacturers.
Sounds a lot like the corporate agenda from some of the largest drug companies offering marketing, advertising, and public relations when it comes to explaining about various medicines. Physicians take their required continuing education seminars to keep their licenses. Dietitians also take continuing education to keep their licenses. So do registered nurses. Are the seminars more like public relations interweaved with continuing nutrition education by independent lab research studies? And are the research studies funded by the huge food manufacturers discussing the processed foods with the dietitians at continuing education conferences?
Just like the big pharmaceutical companies sometimes ply doctors with marketing talks about prescription drugs along with dinners, samples of prescription medicines, and in the past included sometimes trips to educational medical conventions, or other seminars, that turn out to be more like medicine marketing, so to the large corporations that make processed snacks, sugary cereals, and sodas ply registered dietitians with continuing education courses and sometimes samples of their processed, packaged foods from veggie burgers to cold cereals and various snack items. You may wish to check out the February 27, 2014 AP news story by Candice Choi, “Food companies teach US dietitians about nutrition.”
If medical students and physicians are approached by large pharmaceutical firms, so are dietitians and other licensed health professionals who must take continuing education courses or seminars
Instead of emphasizing how eating processed foods might have some link to the rising USA obesity rates, instead free courses sometimes are offered online to educate registered dietitians about foods made by the huge processed food and snack firms. And when Americans want to learn about healthy eating, if they go to their highest qualified registered dietitians the question is whether or not they’re going to get the education they are seeking about what foods are healthy not for everyone but for the individual with a customized, tailored diet to fit the metabolic and genetic requirements of the patient. You also may wish to see the article, “The Year in Food: McD’s, Big Food Tweets, Great Reads, and GMO Seeds.”
Guess who’s offering free online continuing education classes to registered dietitians nowadays? Companies such as Frito-Lay, Kellogg and Coca-Cola are essentially teaching the teachers. They’re offering seminars, online classes and workshops that are usually free for nutritionists, notes the article, “Food companies teach US dietitians about nutrition.” The article was reprinted in the March 2, 2014 issue of the Sacramento Bee.
Is there a behind-the-scenes efforts to burnish the image of their snacks and drinks?
Almost everyone knows that there may be an issue regarding education of dietitians when the largest corporations in the food industry has too much influence over dietitians or the corporations have deep pockets that may may or may not influence the FDA and other government agencies or consumers, or TV advertising. But what happens when dietitians have to classes for education credits to maintain their licenses, just like physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals?
If the courses are less expensive and online, naturally, it’s cheaper and easier to take required continuing education classes in nutrition online instead of paying money to attend continuing education classes in person at various hotels where the dietitian not only pays for the course but also for the food and lodging at hotels, the transportation fee, and has to deal with the weather.
Doctors and nurses take continuing education as well as many other licensed health professionals
The question is how much education for dietitians is focused on special diets for vegans, reversal diets, diets to unclog arteries, diets for senior citizens with special needs, or tailoring the diet to the individual person’s metabolism and genetic profiles based on family history of predisposition to chronic diseases such as heart disease, hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, kidney disease, cancer, or other chronic illnesses than run in families?
The same people who make and market products made with lots of white flour, sugar, salt, or fats and oils are offering nutrition education classes to registered dietitians. Now if the dietitian is trained in integrative, functional, restorative medicine, raw foods, vegan diets, Mediterranean diets, Pan Asian diets, Paleo diets, and other specialized diets for individuals who need diets customized to their predisposition, the field is known as metabolic and genetic nutrition.
Even though obesity is declining in preschoolers, two-thirds of Americans still are considered overweight or obese
Consumers ask what happens when manufacturers of sugary and salty products market their products and call the seminar, workshop, continuing education or other course (webinar) or offering eligible for credit for nutritionists who must take continuing education courses frequently to keep their licenses?
The online classes offered by the manufacturers marketing their products are usually less expensive and more convenient than other courses dietitians can take, as a way to cast their products in a positive nutritional light. Dietitians also may be concerned that they’re being tracked online by corporations marketing processed foods.
Corporations may collect the contact information of dietitians to mail them samples or coupons, in some cases to share with their patients
When it comes to continuing health education for dietitians, is it public relations? And when doctors are given marketing information in their continuing education courses, is it also in various ways another form of marketing medications?
Not all dietitians want to take continuing education courses just to learn about commercial, processed snack foods in most supermarkets. That’s why there’s an organization called Dietitians for Professional Integrity, a group of about a dozen dietitians who are calling for an end to the practice. You also can check out the organization on Facebook. See, “Dietitians for Professional Integrity | Facebook.”
One of the many problems that stems from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ partnerships with Big Food and Big Soda giants like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s, and General Mills is that it is in complete opposition to the way in which other well-known health organizations view the food industry, says the organization’s Facebook site. Industry has an answer because the huge food and beverage firms explain that their classes offer perspective into the public debate when it comes to the topic of nutrition, according to the article, “Snack, soda makers play controversial role in education of dietitians.”
You may wish to check out the site of the annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, where the food and beverage industry holds several workshops and classes on nutrition for numerous dietitians. See, “FNCE 2014 – From Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.”
Do some nutrition conferences focus on marketing?
The next Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo will be held in Atlanta in the fall, from October 18-21, 204. For last year, there’s a website where you can check out the PDF files of various presentations, such s nontraditional careers for dietitians. One example would be the supermarket dietitian. You may wish to see the “Supermarket Dietitian” site.
Or check out the site, “Beyond Traditional Dietetics: Turning Your RD into Real Dollars,” Susan Mitchell PhD, RD, LDN, FADA Mitchell, Susan Mitchell PhD, RD, LDN, FADA Both.” These lectures are important not only to dietitians but also to consumers to learn more about what dietitians know. It helps make better nutrition choices. Courses like these should be open to other professionals and journalists who write about health and food.
When the corporations make a presentation to dietitians, they emphasize details such as removing trans fats. For example, in 2013, FNCE educational sessions remained in paperless format. Read more here. For example, at the 2013 conference in Houston, Frito-Lay explained to dietitians how it removed trans fats from its Lay’s potato chips and other snacks, according to the article, “Food companies teach US dietitians about nutrition.”
The makers of high fructose corn syrup encouraged them to question a study that ties the prevalence of the sweetener derived from corn to higher rates of Type 2 diabetes. And the company famous for its Frosted Flakes cereal taught the benefits of fiber, says the article, “Food companies teach US dietitians about nutrition.”
Also, did you know that Coca Cola had an online class for dietitians, “Understanding Dietary Sugars and Health” taught by instructors who both had industry ties? Physicians know this also happens with the huge pharmaceutical companies who talk to doctors about the latest medicines.
What you, as a consumer rather than a dietitian need to know is that corporations with ties to the Sugar Association and companies including candy bar maker Mars or companies with ties to the Corn Growers Association on the subject of high fructose corn syrup present educational conferences, workshops, or continuing education seminars to registered dietitians. It’s nothing new. Pharmaceutical firms market to physicians at medical conferences, and most people know about it.
So what about the online classes for registered dietitians? Are nutrition professionals who are licensed told about dietary guidelines when it comes to sugar? Or are they told there shouldn’t be guidelines? And does the average consumer look at guidelines or rather eats what’s traditional and familiar in families?
The American Heart Association, which recommends women consume no more than 6 teaspoons daily and men consume no more than 9 teaspoons daily. But why eat sugar at all? Dietitians can’t say that to the public in many, but not all cases.
You don’t see recipes in mainstream newspapers saying a pinch of stevia or a handful of mashed prunes instead of sugar in cookie recipes, not very often at least
And the sugar industry would have a lot to say if anyone advised people not to eat sugar, unless you’re addressing one specific patient with a diet tailored to the person’s genetic and metabolic system as one individual with a health condition. The organic prune industry needs to include recipes where prunes are used instead of sugar or fats/oils ingredients. And the flaxseed industry needs to include recipes where ground flaxseeds are used as a substitute for eggs in baking –one tablespoon of flaxseed meal instead of one egg in baking cookies, cakes, crackers, or brownies, and to thicken smoothies, for example.
Doctors often cite how the pharmaceutical industry markets medicines
In 1997, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration tried to separate public relations marketing and advertising from continuing education to physicians by prescription or over-the-counter medicine manufacturers. After all, doctors need to keep taking courses to keep their license to practice medicine. The same applies to nurses and their licenses. The problem is when drug companies influence doctors or even have an influence on the income of doctors who prescribe certain drugs.
Is nutrition following a similar path? If you’re not a registered dietitian and don’t deal hands-on directly with patients, you’re free to look at functional foods, restorative medicine, integrated medicine, and foods as medicine research articles in medical and scientific journals because you’re not licensed to practice any particular occupation where you deal with patients.
For example, a nutrition journalist can refer readers to information or news in other publications, but can’t tell people what to eat. The people decide what to eat based on their own research of the studies, the news about the studies, and any recommended books for general reading. Registered dietitians like registered nurses deal directly with patients and have to be licensed because they do more than broadcast sources of educational materials or information.
For example, if you’re a senior citizen on a vegan diet, you may want to read the articles or books doctors write where studies are mentioned in how to reverse clogged arteries with soft plaque by following reversal diets. So you may want to read more about the outcome of studies looking at the results of those diets and whether the outcome was long lasting. You’re looking for information where you can make up your own mind. Marketers and people in the public relations field also broadcast guidance. So does the FDA and the CDS.
What’s the role of food and drug manufacturers?
It’s up to the individual to separate the marketing and public relations or advertising of food or medicines from education and research, but who funded the research, the industry or an independent source? The big picture now for dietitians is there’s really not much, if any of a barrier between food manufacturers and registered dietitians.
If you want to become a dietitian, you can take a look at the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a professional group that’s based in Chicago with more than 75,000 members. That organization governs the path to becoming a registered dietitian and oversees the accreditation for continuing education providers. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. Test your eat right knowledge with Nutrition Sudoku. See, “Eat Right.”
In California, at least this year, it’s legal for all to perform nutrition counseling though there may be limitations on insurance reimbursement eligibility, See, “Licensure – Center for Nutrition Advocacy.” The states marked green, let you do nutrition counseling or coaching. But in the states marked as red on that map of licenses required for nutrition advocacy, it’s illegal to perform nutrition counseling unless licensed or exempt.
Effectively only RDs are eligible for licensure. On that map for the states marked as orange, it’s illegal to perform nutrition counseling unless licensed or exempt. There is a Non-RD pathway for licensure. And on the states marked on that map as yellow, it’s legal to perform nutrition counseling. But effectively, only registered dietitians are eligible for government recognition, and so may be the only practitioners eligible for insurance reimbursement. It all depends on where you live and work in the field of nutrition.
There’s limits to what a nutritional counselor can do
Depending on what state you live in, you could also call yourself a nutrition coach rather than a counselor, but if you can’t even coach in nutrition in your state, you can still write the news focusing on food and health education as a science writer. People in the nutrition field, such as those working in health food stores selling supplements who want to move into nutrition counseling need to decide what career path they want to take. For many it’s about getting government recognition by passing a national exam and getting licensed as a registered dietitian, which opens the path to getting reimbursed by insurance for what you do to help people by doing nutritional-related work.
There’s always the field of management of health food stores, a sales and marketing-oriented route. It all depends on education, taking a national exam, and getting registered and licensed. The government wants to make sure you’re qualified.
Then there’s the field of the master herbalist, someone who sells herbs and sometimes supplements, with other requirements for safety, including where was the herb imported from and what’s in it or whether you had it checked by an independent lab before offering/selling herbs to customers. Big trouble can come to the master herbalist from telling someone to take nattokinaise, for example, and having the person felled by being blindsided by a blood clot in the lungs or elsewhere after taking it to thin the blood. There are case histories to read, when it comes to some herbs. See, “Nattokinase supplement benefit, side effects, clotting, heart, circulation.” Or see, “Nattokinase – Angelfire.”
When it comes to nutrition information, the average consumer may not see the main flaw in any given type of nutritional study, limiting the usefulness of its conclusions
Many people don’t have the experience in looking at studies to know whether a publication doesn’t say whether a particular study is a double-blinded study, or, at least, an investigator-blinded study. A non-blinded study has the potential for bias, limiting the validity of its findings and conclusions. Without this type of experience or knowledge, a lot of readers jump at a news story or read the headlines and head out for any particular nutritional product.
Like a life coach or a health coach, a nutrition coach refers people to other resources where the individual can do research or read educational, informational materials and make up his or her own mind or get resources where the person can find a physician practicing functional medicine who is trained in functional foods, restorative medicine, or naturopathy and nutrition. But you’re not a registered dietitian who can treat patients by offering specific diets. Instead as a coach, you’re referring people to other informational resources or recommending reading materials. See, “Enhancing the Flavor of Your Meals.”
You can provide educational information as a coach about how to enhance flavor, for example, by using herbs and spices, but you can’t test a person to see whether the individual has an adverse reaction to the particular ingredient. On the other hand, so can a chef or cook discuss recipes and food taste in general ways such as using a sprinkle of pepper which helps you absorb the sprinkle of turmeric on your food as it cooks or keeping sliced apples whiter in the refrigerator by squeezing lemon juice over the sliced apples.
See, “Helping Kids Maintain a Healthy Body Weight: A Cheat Sheet for Success.” Also check out, “Healthy Habits for the Whole Family.” Nutrition education and nutrition journalism, like consumer science communications are more about offering information and educational or research resources, writing the news, or teaching classes about how certain foods affect most people. Or see, “American Diabetes Month.”
What registered dietitians must learn
Besides a bachelor’s degree in nutrition or a closely-related field, for registered dietitians in the U.S., continuing education is a requirement. After earning a degree in nutrition, completing an internship program and taking an exam, registered dietitians must earn 75 credits of continuing education every five years. An hour-long class typically translates to one credit.
In contrast, anyone in California can print up business cards with nutritional coach or healthcare journalist on the card and not have a four-year degree specifically in nutrition or a closely-related field. Decades ago the field of nutrition used to be housed in the home economics major at many colleges, often with a specialization within home economics in nutrition and dietetics. Some universities also call the field consumer science with a specialization in dietetics.
At UC Davis the Nutrition Science department also offers a path of study leading to the dietitian title, for example, the major called Clinical Nutrition, where the student can take the national examination to be a licensed registered dietitian. And there’s a department there called Foods and Nutrition. See, “UC Davis Nutrition Department.” Clinical nutrition majors at UC Davis specialize in designing diets to meet the needs of patients with specific medical conditions.
At the upper division level, you may choose a specialized major: nutritional biochemistry, community nutrition or clinical nutrition. You will study more advanced topics in biology as well as courses relevant to your major. If you choose to major in clinical nutrition, you will be qualified to apply for the American Dietetics Association “accredited internship,” enabling you to earn the Registered Dietitian credential necessary for work in a clinical setting, says the Nutrition Science website at UC Davis. If you choose the community nutrition option, you will take additional course work in social and health-related sciences and gain experience in presenting nutritional concepts in a public service setting.
Whatever the path to being a dietitian, food companies market to them
You have huge corporations such as General Mills, which makes Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Yoplait yogurt, Pillsbury dough and Progresso soup, also providing education through its Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition for at least the past decade and a half.
You can check out the organization, “Dietitians for Professional Integrity” Or see the Huffington Postarticle, “Dietitians for Professional Integrity.” Also see, “The Food Ties That Bind: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2013 Conference.” Or take a look at the article, “The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Big Food Controversy.”
The debate is about the food industry’s tie to the continuing education of registered dietitians
Also, you may want to see the article, “The Year in Food: McD’s, Big Food Tweets, Great Reads, and GMO Seeds.” Who presents seminars to dietitians? Coca-Cola, which makes drinks including Dasani water and Minute Maid juice, offers about a dozen seminars each year through its Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness. You can check out the webinars. The course materials are based on independent, third-party research.
Not only dietitians, but the public also wants facts, and often the only way to read the facts is in news articles, but for many, mainstream newspapers don’t have the space to run news stories about food, even in the food and health pages, since newspapers sell huge amounts of advertising to stores selling foods. What dietitians think about at the various continuing education classes offered by manufacturers of processed foods is that the classes also may have information that supports the company’s products.
What were you thinking? That companies would decrease income by saying something unhealthy about their products?
Of course not. For the average reader, you have to separate marketing from research, which is an issue if the research is funded by the industry whose income depends upon the results of the research. As an alternative, you could search out physicians trained in nutrition who work with patients who need special diets to reverse what happens when their genetic predisposition doesn’t agree with the foods they are familiar with and eat daily or what taste cravings they have compared to their actual deficiencies or dense nutritional needs.
You may wish to see, “Medical Nutrition Program for Health Professionals.” Another issue is how few doctors are trained in functional nutrition and special diets customized to the different and unique metabolic and genetic requirements of individuals based on physical exam test results and family medical history. See the The New York Times article, “Teaching Doctors About Nutrition and Diet.”