Saturday, May 14, 2016

Nutrition Influencers: The Real Reason Registered Dietitians Want You to Consume Carbs

One of the secrets most registered dietitians don't want you to know is that many of their colleagues quoted in magazines like Self, Shape and Woman's World are paid nutrition influencers.

These so-called health experts, most of whom curiously resemble the perky gal who does the weather segment on your local TV station, are paid directly or indirectly by food and beverage companies to convince you the processed carbs in your food and drinks are fine in moderation -- as long as you also eat some fruits and vegetables and take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Never mind that most people get fat and sick attempting to follow this advice.

Public relations and marketing firms that cater to big food and beverage companies like Kellogg's and Coca Cola deliberately court people who possess the registered dietitian credential to persuade people that moderation is the key to healthy living.

"Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too."

Because I'm weird that way, any time I see a registered dietitian quoted in an article I check their website to see if they happen to have a client who could benefit from their advice. More often than not, I hit pay dirt.

Today, I did a wild card search using the key words "nutrition influencer" and found an article in Today's Dietitian that addressed this issue by Sharon Palmer, RDN. In "Dietitians' Food Industry Relationships: What Is Ethical and What Is Not?" she points to several registered dietitians who serve as positive role models, including Neva Cochran of Dallas:
Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD, has had a long successful career as a communications consultant in Dallas, working with companies and organizations such as the Egg Nutrition Center, Sargento, and the American Beverage Association. "Industry clients want to work with me because I have a reputation honed by more than 30 years in the field. [Because I am] known for being science-based and a good communicator, they value me for my reputation, credibility, and the respect I have as a dietitian."  
I decided to visit Cochran's website and took note of her vast client list:

Current Clients: Egg Nutrition Center, American Beverage Association, Calorie Control Council,    Monsanto

Past clients: Corn Refiners Association, Sargento, Woman's World Magazine, Kao Health & Nutrition, McDonald's, Mazola, Solae Soy, Cherry Marketing Institute, Maximum Fitness magazine, California Raisin Marketing Board, Nutrilite, KIND Snacks, Enova Oil/Kao Health and Nutrition, The Coca-Cola Company, Subway Restaurants, Fresh Express Salads, Texas Beef Council, Clementines from Spain, Lean Cuisine, Female Patient Magazine, First for Women Magazine, National Dairy Board, Dallas Fort Worth Chinese Restaurant Association, August Moon Restaurants, ZuZu Restaurants

A random click on Cochran's Media Portfolio page led me to a 2009 article in Woman's World Magazine raving about the weight loss and health benefits of raisins.

Despite the hype, this gimmicky diet revolving around walking and eating raisins never really took off.
"Interesting coincidence," thought I, since the California Raisin Marketing Board was one of her clients.

"Healthy" breakfast?
What Cochran did was take a very limited study by the University of Connecticut that was supported by a grant from the California Grape Commission and create a meal plan around it that included a carbomongous fruity breakfast burrito composed of a tortilla, peanut butter, banana, raisins and non-fat milk -- over 100 grams of carbohydrates, much of which is sugar.

For all I know, raisins could be the best thing since Fathead Pizza, but given Cochran's obvious industry bias my bet is I'm better off avoiding these sugary wrinkled grapes.

The bigger concern is that most women and random men who read Woman's World see the RD next to Cochran's name and assume her nutrition information is sound.

When a registered dietitian takes money from food companies and product boards and commissions, however, the "objective science-based advice" virtually always makes the client look good.

Ironically, the same article that highlights Cochran as a sterling example of a an ethical registered dietitian provides this advice from Andy Bellatti, MS, RD:
If you're working with the food industry in any capacity, and you give nutrition advice—in the media, on the Internet—or provide client, community, or professional education, it's absolutely essential to disclose your relationships. "I think the most important thing is that any dietitian who works with the food industry should be completely transparent about it."
You really shouldn't have to check a registered dietitian's website to find out who is buttering her bread.

Low-carb book recommendations:

Low Carb, High Fat Food Revolution: Advice and Recipes to Improve Your Health and Reduce Your Weight

The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet
What the Fat?: Fat's IN: Sugar's OUT Practical guide and recipes

The Real Meal Revolution: The Radical, Sustainable Approach to Healthy Eating (Age of Legends)

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers

The Obesity Epidemic: What caused it? How can we stop it?

Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It

The Obesity Code: Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss

Keto Clarity: Your Definitive Guide to the Benefits of a Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet

Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution: The Complete Guide to Achieving Normal Blood Sugars

Eat Fat, Get Thin: Why the Fat We Eat Is the Key to Sustained Weight Loss and Vibrant Health

New Atkins for a New You: The Ultimate Diet for Shedding Weight and Feeling Great

The Harcombe Diet: Stop Counting Calories & Start Losing Weight

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