Friday, November 21, 2014

The Controversy of Nutrition

The more I think about it, the more I feel like nutrition is becoming so controversial that it could almost be equated to religion or politics when it comes to what one believes and feels strongly about and what one doesn't believe or feel strongly about.  The fact is, a lot of it IS outright politics when it comes to FDA rulings, the USDA and any other US governing bodies that have power over food & nutrition in America.  Registered Dietitians (RDs) tend to be getting a bad rep because of this.  Alternative health professionals and those against what the FDA and USDA are ruling tend to think RDs are government "puppets."  However, this could not be more false.

The role of an RD is to look objectively at the science and studies behind it all and provide evidence-based information and guidance, based on what the majority of studies point to, no matter who funded the study.  As long as the studies are carried out appropriately; meaning that they were carried out by a professional who knows that they are doing, that there were little or no errors, a substantial number of subjects or participants and that they are unbiased and objective, that would constitute something to look at and take seriously.  A lot of us like to keep an eye on emerging and smaller studies and give credence to those as well.  We recognize that these studies could end up being something worth listening to, again, as long as the studies were appropriately conducted.

For a study to be unbiased, it generally means that it has to be done by an organization who is not trying to sell you a product...so a supplement company who has done studies in their own in-house laboratory, using their own employees would be considered biased.  However, if this study were reviewed by other objective scientists outside of the organization and published in a journal, the bias is eliminated. The study is then considered a "peer-reviewed study."  The problem is, so many organizations and companies are using biased studies to try and prove a point...studies that may be flawed or carried out in a way that would automatically favor a certain product or idea.  Consumers don't necessarily know to look for whether a study is biased or peer-reviewed.  To some, any study is worth listening to, which is where the controversy comes from.

In today's world, where more and more people are paying attention to all sorts of studies and claims, it tends to be the dietitian's role to help decipher what is worth looking at further and what would be considered biased or flawed.  This is why RDs take so many science classes to earn our degree.  Nutrition is definitely a constantly evolving science.  This is apparent when we take a look at how nutrition recommendations have changed over the years.  So, when a registered dietitian tells you something is not worth listening to or worth listening to, it's not because we were "told" to tell you that, it's because there is unignorable scientific evidence that actually proves a point one way or another. 

photo courtesy:  "Amy"