Infinite Blogging

Tales of love, fertility and nourishing food.

Things that annoy me about nutrition. March 30, 2008

Filed under: Food — Annette @ 6:21 pm

1. The excessive amount of nutrition advice from “nutritionists.”
If you spend any amount of time looking at books or Internet sites which discuss nutrition, you’ll see a lot of advice and diets from “nutritionists.”  Much of the content is highly questionable from the perspective of someone actually trained and educated in nutrition.  I have a Master’s degree in nutrition, and I don’t even claim to be a “nutritionist.”  Why?  Because in the US the term “nutritionist” is not regulated.  What does that mean?  Anyone can claim to be a nutritionist.  You can be a nutritionist.  Your mother can be a nutritionist.  That slightly crazy lady from church who suggests using garlic to cure cancer can be a nutritionist.  In some parts of Canada (Quebec and Nova Scotia), it apparently is a regulated term, but in the US it is not.  If you are looking for accurate nutrition advice, you should look for someone who either has a real degree in nutrition (MS, PhD, etc.) or is a dietician (RD – Registered Dietitian).  Even with an MS in nutrition, I’m not legally qualified to perform nutritional counselling.  Only an RD is qualified to do that.  If someone is dispensing nutrition advice and is not an RD or does not have a higher degree in nutrition, I’m very skeptical.  Using the term “nutritionist” is a pretty good indicator that you should be skeptical.

In writing this I just came across a fake nutrition certification which I was unaware of.  Prescription for Nutritional Healing, a book owned by about 90% of the church members I know (including myself, although I have never used it), is written by an MD (a urologist) and a “CNC” – Certified Nutrition Consultant.  This certification is offered by the “American Association of Nutritional Consultants,” which according to Quackwatch is “a thoroughly disreputable organization whose only membership requirement has been payment of a $50 fee and whose “CNC” designation is based on passage of an open-book examination based mainly on the contents of quacky books” (link).  A quick look at the AANC website indicates that this is likely accurate.  Quackwatch also documents that membership in the AANC has been held by several household pets.

2. The Weston A. Price Foundation.
I first heard about these people probably around six months ago when a friend sent a link to nutrition advice on their website.  Since then I seem to find them everywhere.  Who are these people?  They are an organization “founded in 1999 to disseminate the research of nutrition pioneer Dr. Weston Price, whose studies of isolated nonindustrialized peoples established the parameters of human health and determined the optimum characteristics of human diets.”  Okay, fair enough.  I’m all about learning more about the optimum characteristics of human diets.  But let’s find out more about these people. 

Some issues of concern:

  • Weston A. Price was a dentist.  I’m not against dentistry by any means, but I have yet to find any evidence that this man had any training in nutrition. 
  • Co-founder Sally Price holds a graduate degree in English.  I’m sure she writes very grammatically-correct books, but again, I’m not sure I place a lot of credibility in her nutrition training.
  • Other co-founder, Mary Enig, actually does hold graduate degrees in nutrition.  Okay, this is a good sign.  However, she “admits that she is “on the fringe” in her nutritional views and advice” (link).  She promotes the consumption of coconuts (high in saturated fat) for weight loss, and also “claims that natural coconut oil may be effective in the treatment of AIDS and other viral infections.”  You know, Mary, I’m just not sure about that.  Also, “Enig’s organization, the WAPF, is an advocate of raw milk and claims that “homogenized milk has been linked to heart disease.” The only reference to back this claim is an article Enig wrote that addressed a 1970′s era theory that was later disproven.”
  • Weston A. Price’s findings were published in a book, not a peer-reviewed scientific journal (as far as I can tell).  Again, anyone can publish a book, but not just anyone will be published in a scientific journal.
  • The point of his book was to show how the diets of isolated primitive peoples are associated with superior health.  I’m all for eating minimally processed foods, but it’s bad science to assume that if we all eat the same diets as these primitive peoples, our health will be superior.  You can’t generalize the results of one population to an entirely different population.  Real research has indicated that a diet for one type of people can be benign or even harmful in another type of people.  Even if these people did have better health than we do, you can’t assume that nutrition is the only cause.  There is also something to be said for environmental factors such as pollution, advertising, heredity and genetics.  And as Quackwatch points out, “While extolling their health, he ignored their short life expectancy and high rates of infant mortality, endemic diseases, and malnutrition” (link).

Anyway, I’m not claiming to be an expert on Weston A. Price, nor am I saying that all the principles promoted by the foundation are necessarily wrong.  But I have seen enough about the foundation to be very highly skeptical about any theories they promote which are not supported by other research or reputable organizations.

That’s my deal.  Look for real qualifications and training.  And like your mom taught you, don’t believe everything you read.

 

26 Responses to “Things that annoy me about nutrition.”

  1. I agree with you 100%… watch out for “nutritionist” posers – get your advice from an RD. I am “reading” (a.k.a. listening) to In Defense of Food… what an awful book so far. Pollen brings up Weston Price as a “forgotten” nutritionist who knew all these about nutrition and teeth all to make the point that what you eat affects your health… duh!

  2. Ducky Says:

    Well said, Annette! :)

  3. BanjoBen Says:

    “Posers” are one thing, but not having an advanced degree in nutrition doesn’t make one a poser. If a lack of an advanced degree is enough to discredit someone, there are many mathematicians, scientists, etc down through history that we should just forget about. I can’t remember all the specifics, but as I recall, Pierre de Fermat was actually a lawyer. Yet it’s his contributions to mathematics that have immortalized his name.

    I’m not saying this Price fella is a nutrition expert or anything (don’t know a thing about him). It’s just that I feel your post precludes the possibility that someone without such a degree could ever make meaningful contributions, and that’s simply not true.

  4. Audrey Says:

    Hey Annette, John said you commented on the info I sent you, I was wondering if you even got it! I’m so glad I encouraged some research into non-standard nutritional teachings. I do agree that they are off in many areas (unclean food etc.) but my main point was that if God created something to be eaten, even the most highly educated humans are not going to come up with something better. We just have to try to get things as close to the way they were created as possible. BTW, our family has been enjoying raw milk, disease free, for over 3 years and John has lost weight incorporating coconut oil into his diet. We got into this whole crazy thing by reading The Makers Diet- still not 100% on (& self-promoting), but food for thought.

  5. Kerr Says:

    Math is highly different than…well almost every other field. ab + ac = a(b+c) can be proven, and can’t be politicized. And it’s hard to sell math.
    Ye Ben’s point is still completely valid, for the same reason. Other fields are swayed by the social influences at the time, and that affects who has, or does not have, a degree and/or influence.

  6. Kerr Says:

    BTW, it’s been scientifically proven that Fritos make you happy. Try it, it’s true. And I don’t even like them.

  7. Infinity Says:

    I agree, there have been meaningful contributions by people untrained in the field they contribute to. But I do think that their contributions deserve more scrutiny than otherwise would be applied. If I were to attempt some research in knot theory, I hope I would not be taken as seriously as someone who was trained in it.

    The other thing to consider is – if this research were so revolutionary and accurate, why has it not been further studied and advocated by others? So much of the philosophy behind science is the concept of reproducing results to demonstrate their accuracy and generalizability. If it can’t be reproduced by anyone else, it’s probably not accurate data.

  8. Mike Says:

    Nutrition n00b here again… On the subject of scientists not studying some “revolutionary” new diet or whatever, it could be fear of losing funding or being seen as a quack when agreeing with the alternate medicine folks. Doesn’t prove anything, mind you, just a similar vein of thought that Mr. Smith brought up concerning scientists awhile back.

    Also, I just read more on the recent findings on pharmaceuticals not delivering the intended benefits because of the assumptions of the testers involved. For example, a cholesterol drug lowers bad cholesterol, but doesn’t stop heart blockages, thus heart attack risks stay the same. But they advertised it with the express purpose of lowering the risk of heart attack. Similarly with diet, the same thing can be said. Targeting this one thing or that doesn’t always get you the intended consequence even though research shows the two are linked.

    Granted, both of my points are on the negative side of this whole topic and there is plenty of positive, provable nutrition info out there, it’s just that most Americans don’t do the basics very well and only when our health gets bad do we seem to reach for the “fastest” method available, not necessarily the best and most proven.

  9. Charlie Says:

    Mraaagghh… her post points out the possible exceptions… but I wanted to be the one to point out the exceptions. That’s my job… mrraagghh.

  10. Mary Says:

    hi folks…
    we had a child with some wacky health problems…migraines at 5 days, lack of sleeping patterns, tiny, pale, generally sickly…went to plenty of nutritionists, harvard top in their field highly credentially hard to get appointments with docs, rds, you name it…with little results, actually no results, and thousands of dollars–really–wasted–if your goal is results–as was ours.

    we did get results with the wap diet…amazing results actually–not an impressive credential to find..

    our take away was if you want credentials…that’s one path
    if you want results..well, that is another

  11. food dood Says:

    Dieticians are not research scientists. They are actually educators with a fairly basic understanding of food science and biochemistry. Their primary role is to educate their patients according to the current nutritional dogma.

    As someone with over 20 years experience as food scientist I am constantly amazed at how little basic science is studied by dieticians.

  12. Knows something Says:

    Just b/c you don’t like what someone is saying doesn’t mean it’s not true.

    The ‘experts’ tell us cholesterol is the tell tell sign for heart disease yet we’ve spent over 2 decades and see MORE heart disease. Why b/c cholesterol is a myth. IT was a ‘theory’ that came up in the 50′s. Read the Cholesterol Myth. Study the studies. who paid for them.

    these price people have no reason to dog any product b/c they don’t sell anything. now procoter and gamble needs you to think that Jif peanut butter is good for you. well not with partially hydrogenated oil in it.

    too many thoughts here. just b/c something is off the path of the what the so called experts say doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

    DO your research

  13. Ed Welles Says:

    Experts are often wrong. Read “The Wisdom of Crowds.”

    One thing lacking in this conversation is any mention of EXERCISE. All primitive cultures were active/ mobile; they had to be to survive. (People are built to move around.) Americans are incredibly, sadly, sedentary. You don’t think this affects our health….?

    Exercise plus whole/ raw foods of all types = good health.

  14. I’m curious what CMS your site uses? This seems to be fabulous and I like all the guest options which are available. Sorry if this really is the wrong place to ask this but I wasn’t sure how to contact you – many thanks.

  15. Annette Says:

    It’s just WordPress. :)

  16. Bette Says:

    I am not a scientist. I am a mother of three. After researching the risks of raw milk I found that the risks were not any greater than with pasteurized milk. I also know that the less a food is processed the healthier it tends to be. Since buying a share in a herd in order to get raw milk, my family has been healthier. We don’t get sick in the winter nearly as often as we used to and when we do, colds and flu don’t hang on for weeks as it used to. As far as the the dental angle, my youngest son has always been the best of my three in oral hygiene, yet he was the only one who didn’t get a star on his record every time we wen to the dentist until we started with raw milk. Raw milk was the only thing we changed in our diet at the time. Before the raw milk, he had issues every time we went to the dentist. Since we started on the raw milk, he has had a clean bill of health every time. I don’t what the “real” scientists are looking at, but as a previous poster said, “I have real positive results.”

  17. Deanna Says:

    I have Rheumatoid Arthritis and Celiac Disease – both are Auto-Immune diseases. I took a lot of prescription meds (8) and never felt good. I starting doing a lot of reading and Sally Fallon’s book made the most sense to me. Over the past 5 years (strictly following the WAPF principles – raw dairy, soaked or no grains, grass-fed meat, soaked nuts, lots of bone broth, etc ), I lowered my prescriptions from eight to three. I can’t go without my Rheumatologist, but I function a lot better following this diet. My children are 8 and 10 and are stronger and healthier than most of their classmates. Friends marvel at how good their skin and hair looks. They have no cavities. They go to the doc once a year for an annual checkup. (Their great health, skin, hair, and teeth are not coming from me or my husband, I assure you :0) ) I have to give credit where credit is due, and that is to Sally’s book and the Nourishing Tradtions principles.

  18. I just came upon this post when looking for something else…

    I agree that you can’t blindly follow the advice of a dentist, a “nutritionist”, a blogger like myself who writes about nutrition, or anyone else, including a Registered Dietitian. (Have you seen the food they send up on hospital trays recently? It KEEPS people sick!) We all need to take control of our own lives and diets and find out the truth about what we really should be eating. Do the research for yourself…

    Is the “low fat, high grain” diet they’ve been pushing on us for years working? Or are we getting more fat and more sick all the time?

    The principles of the WAP diet may be “politically incorrect”, but if you’re sick of being sick (or infertile or depressed, etc.), they just might have the answers you’ve been looking for.

    Kelly

  19. sljg0195 Says:

    Stephen Byrnes, another of WAPF’s “purchased opinions,” died of a fatal stroke at age 40. WAPF is funded by the meat and dairy industry.

  20. Butch Says:

    Hard to imagine Weston Price being “funded by the meat and dairy industry” since their recommendations are for non-factory farmed meat and unprocessed dairy -hardly staples of the “meat and dairy industry”. Mary Enig is associated with lipid research at I agree with others who point out that attacking someone for lack of credentials is a profoundly weak argument. If the argument has flaws, lacks evidence, or you have contradictory evidence, then construct a criticism on that basis, not because they lack a certain degree. I believe Thomas Edison didn’t make it much past the 8th grade. Dr. Mary Enig, by the way, is a fellow in the American College of Nutrition and worked in the Lipid Research Group in the University of Maryland Department of Chemistry. Her assertion about coconut oil and HIV has to do with the fact that coconut oil is rich in monolaurin, which is the basis for lauric acid in the body, which is anti viral, anti microbial, anti parasitic. She’s not advocating “curing AIDS with coconuts” however. She also suggests that naturally occurring fats are not the cause of heart disease (or obesity). If you read Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food” , which is very enjoyable, you’ll get an idea of where Enig and others are coming from. Pollan is far from an ideologue – he understands that eating real food is not what most people are doing today – and that many traditional societies have thrived on low fat, high fat, and medium fat diets, but that they all ate real food. 90 percent of what you find in grocery stores today would not qualify as “real food”.

  21. gokhals Says:

    My life and health turned around by following the principles laid down by the WAPF. I thank its founders Sally Fallon and Mary Enig for exposing the massive Statin scam, the cholesterol scam, the ADA scam, the AHA dietary guidelines scam and of course the biggest scam of all the USFDA food pyramid. It takes courage to stand up to institutionalized fraud, as its so steeped in the minds of otherwise honest people, they do not bother to question it. Read the science and understand it before you trash Mary Enig and Sally Fallon.
    -Gokhals

  22. Martin Newman Says:

    You have to remember, “nutritionists/RDs” have been in charge of hospitals and school systems for generations, and they produce and promote the worst food on the planet! I’d much rather listen (with an open mind) to someone who has an “alternative” certificate or degree in Natural Health and nutrition than one “certified/regulated” by an organization that takes money from CocaCola, Hershey, the American Dairy Council, Mars, and other companies that have contributed so consistantly to our healthcare fiasco (with the graces of the ADA). The gall of the ADA to still insist there are “no bad foods” Give me a break. They’ve done a lousey (with a capital L) job of promoting healthy foods, and still look at food suppliments as evil. Get real. For the ADA to try to corner the market on nutrition informationis is absolutely absurd!

  23. David Says:

    I think both sides have points. Enig and Fallon and Shanahan and Price have proof enough that their points are valid. Enig has so much science on her side that anyone trying to refute it must have some agenda other than our good health. But on the other side, folks like Esselstyn, McDougall, and Campbell have plenty of science on their side showing that plant-strong diets do prevent heart disease and plenty ofother nasty ailments.
    But what do all these folks have in common? They all tell us to get rid of: processed foods, sugar, white flour, and all vegetable oils. Let’s face it, a 3 ton elephant gets all its nutrients from plants, so plant-based nutrition works. Conversely, the Maasai of Kenya eat meat, milk, and blood, and are incredibly healthy with no elevated lipids. Since western man, sitting in an office or his car 10 hours every day is not expending the energy of a Maasai or an Eskimo, all the natural fats that they metabolize we seem retain in our bodies. The answer is probably somewhere in between these two lifestyles. Maybe 10% ‘Caveman’ diet and 90% plant-strong diet would suit most people.
    You have to admit though, that when the government started telling us butter was bad and vegetable oils were good for us, the incidence of heart disease started to skyrocket. And if we Americans drink more milk than almost any other country on earth, then why do we have the highest incidence of osteoporosis? Could it be that the milk we drink isn’t the milk our grandparents drank? Could it be that Pasturizing and homogenizing destroys the naturally occuring good ingrediaents that our bodies have evolved to utilize over the last 25,000 years? You bet it is.
    Go spread some butter from grass-fed cows on a piece of Ezekial bread- and you’ll have a feeling of what breakfast was like 300 years ago. There’s lots of great food out there- we just need to know where it’s coming from.

  24. Nanci Says:

    Does an anyone here realize that Mary Enig’s claim to fame is exposing trans fats for what they are, silent killers? She was the major whistle blower on that so even though her theories on coconut oil and saturated fat are still denied by many, I have to respect her opinion. I also agree with her that at least for some people, saturated fats including meat and especially virgin coconut oil, can have major health benefits. On a low fat diet I was morbidly obese (200 lbs+ at 5’2″). I worked out daily but felt tired and hungry all of the time. I could succeed at losing weight (weight watchers and others) but I couldn’t keep it off due to hunger and stress eating. Now I weight 110 lbs, and my lipids have improved greatly. My total cholesterol is down about 30 points. My HDLs are up and my LDLs are way down. Its been 3 full years on coconut oil and low carb diet and it just keeps getting better. Best of all, I have about 40% more energy now, at 53, than I have in my mid twenties. I’m going to risk saying that I will certainly keep following Ms. Enig’s advice.

  25. Knat Says:

    “On the subject of scientists not studying some “revolutionary” new diet or whatever, it could be fear of losing funding or being seen as a quack when agreeing with the alternate medicine folks.”

    Bingo. You hit the nail on the head. It’s not about validity or science. It’s about funding, job security, reputation, and politics.

    Science is not about concensus. Science is not about “what the authorities say” or “what the registered/licensed professionals preach”. Science is not about what the government endorses or promotes. It’s sad that in our time people still have these misconceptions about what science is.

  26. Jason Keedy Says:

    I had a friend that went to an accredited school ….fourty thousand dollars later and now has a masters in nutrition. She told me it was not worth it!! she started to question her teachers and their sources to late into the game.A lot of folks feel they need to defend this schooling but there is a lot of pride involved . there should be pride, that is a steady education and a ton of work, but lacking. She said that it was great schooling to get anatomy and how things work in the body. She loved that part but everything else she said was bogus. She now is taking a few online classes and some hands on herbal classes. She loves it. What folks are saying about the lower carb(not no carb) high veggie and fat is true. I eats tons of fat and I am thin ….I eat veggies three times a day …eat no sugar …eat no refined foods… I feel great. When I was on a diet given by a dietician I was a mess . She meant well. All I am saying is build on what you learned in school adding wholesome foods. Also make friends with your veggie steamer ….I steam up veggies twice a day in less than ten min ….changing up the spices …and oil . yummy.


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