No, not all Registered Dietitians willingly swallow the heavy sponsorships that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, accepts. Michele Simon published an excellent report detailing the sponsorship and partnerships between the food industry and the Academy. She was stimulated to do so after hearing complaints from Dietitians that this is unacceptable.
Sadly, it is not uncommon for me to hear or read commentaries that bash all Dietitians, stating that we are part of the “problem”. The “problems” being referred to are diverse and mostly related to the food industry, inaccurate nutrition information in the media, poor public policy, obesity and ultimately the poor health of the nation.
My take on this: Don’t lump all Dietitians together. If you do, you underestimate and undermine the intellect and good work of many analytical and insightful practitioners.
There are many dietitians, myself included, that passionately believe that sponsorship by the food industry is ludicrous. How can anyone not see the bias? Simon’s report states that more than 20% of speakers at the Academy’s annual conference have undisclosed financial ties to Big Food companies. This a huge problem that not only biases health professionals, but makes these sessions weak, out-dated and uninteresting. Industry sponsorship is one of the reasons why I rarely complete continuing education from the Academy and have never attended the Academy’s annual conference.
Dietitians like myself are a part of the solution and do not contribute to the problems we face. I continue to pay my dues each year to the Academy so that I remain connected to like-minded professionals that are a part of the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition (HEN) and Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine practice groups. Within these practice groups are Dietitians that reject industry sponsorship, that diligently work for transparency in sponsorships and that move us closer to the removal of corporate sponsors from educational sessions. Within these practice groups are Dietitians that speak the real truths related to food and nutrition rather than relying upon government and industry standards. I am motivated and inspired by fellow Dietitians that are a part of HEN and DIFM to continue to broaden my knowledge and to fix our broken nutrition education AND food systems.
We know that there are problems, big ones, and we do not blindly accept the food industry’s sponsorships and education messages. Don’t underestimate an well-informed Dietitian; we have the capacity to question the bias behind all health information and to seek food truths that are complicated and complex.
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