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.