Conflict of Interest at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Senator Stabenow
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, center, with AND members

Sara Eye, a certified performance technologist from Austin, Texas, wrote a comprehensive description of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), which is…

…now the largest organization for professionals in nutrition … in the world. They are THE authority on health & nutrition, and also, are the ones who are responsible for formulating, creating and publishing the educational content and textbooks for students going into this field. They provide the licenses and registration that allow professionals to get steady jobs in the medical and health field.

Now 75,000 members strong, AND is an influential organization with huge potential to shape national policy in ways that might be beneficial… or not. Who belongs? You don’t have to be a registered dietician to join AND — you can be a lot of other things. The membership requirements are readily available.

A registered dietician gives nutritional advice specific to someone’s condition, disease, athletic training status, or other individual need. With the blessing of AND, a person can become either a registered dietitian or a dietetic technician, registered. If you want to be either of these things, AND is the only game in town. They have exclusive certification rights.

The organization also doesn’t much care for plain old nutritionists, chiropractors, naturopaths, holistic coaches or other types of practitioners. To some observers, it all looks suspiciously like a group wanting to eliminate the competition, corner the market, create a monopoly, and just generally mess up the idea of free choice in medical care. Sarah Eye says:

I don’t want to make all RDs appear like the villain…. I know of many who have pursued further education and sought out better quality information and research about nutrition and health.

Eye did not become either an RD or a DTR, but her history is fascinating. More than 10 years ago she received a diagnosis of celiac disease. Following the AND’s party line, she took all the prescribed meds, while experiencing chronic pain, inflammation, insomnia, and repeated flare-ups that resulted in emergency room visits. This was not her idea of a successful cure. Eye went rogue, followed her own nutritional star, and got better. She believes she has much to offer other sufferers, but says:

Despite my education, and advanced certifications, they want to prevent people like me and other practitioners from doing our jobs because we are not associated by the AND. In other words; we are not giving out the advice that their sponsors want delivered to the masses…. I knew that if I became a university-educated RD, I would be forced to regurgitate the very advice that got me sick in the first place.

The 51-page PDF file titled “And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: Are America’s Nutrition Professionals in the Pocket of Big Food?” is a very disheartening report by public health specialist Michele Simon, all about AND. She paints a convincing picture of why we should care about how these folks, when gathered together in their professional organization, utilize their energies. It’s beginning to look like the whole club is just a giant puppet manipulated by Big Food.

It’s not a particularly secret infiltration, and Simon mentions the observable effects. For instance, at AND’s annual meeting in 2012, fruit and vegetable vendors only occupied a bit more than one-tenth of the expo hall’s floor space. She also remarks, rather tartly it seems:

To date, AND has not supported controversial nutrition policies that might upset corporate sponsors, such as limits on soft drink sizes, soda taxes, or GMO labels.

More about this next time!

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Second-Guessing the Dietician,”, 07/25/13
Source: “And Now a Word from Our Sponsors,”, January 2013
Image by Office of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow


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