Which group gives best nutritional advice? None of the above

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I was fascinated by the simple question put out recently by foodnavigator-usa.com — “Who is best qualified to provide nutrition counseling? RDs? MDs? a CNS? You or me?” — because I’d have to say: As a class, at least, none of the above.

What a shocking realization: We got nuthin'!

So: RDs? RD is shorthand for registered dietitians, vetted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly known as American Dietetic Association. This “academy” takes 10 percent of its funding annually from Pepsi, Coke, and other Big Food bastions. Not only does AND take Big Food money, it actually allows those companies to offer courses that RDs need to keep their certification! “Give us a big chunk of cash, and we’ll let you teach our members.”

AND counsels that there are no good foods or bad foods, which is precisely what Big Food maintains so that it doesn’t have to take any responsibility for what its products are doing to American health.

Note: I no longer speak in terms of “good” or “bad” foods, preferring instead to call them “healthy” or “unhealthy.” Also, there’s a range in between. But there are unhealthy foods, and relatively unhealthy foods, and it’s shocking to me that the self-proclaimed stewards of nutritional guidance would take their “partners’” line on this question, instead of what’s best for the people they proclaim to shepherd.

Then how about MDs? Simply put, many of them aren’t instructed in nutrition to even minimum standards; a 2010 study at the University of North Carolina showed that only about 25 percent dedicated a course to the subject. Doctors are taught to fix the unwell, but not how to use the body’s chief input to stay well.

CNS? Sorry, I would love to add to your understanding of CNSs, but I’ve never met one, and I had to Google it for learn it stands for certified nutrition specialist. I’ll try to learn more about them and report back. Would I gravitate toward someone based on the shingle? Not yet, certainly, but who knows?

”You or me?” I’d only say, “not me,” for sure. I have benefitted from the loving guidance of, yes, an RD for more than a dozen years, and most of what I know, from experience (based on guidance) as opposed to scholarship, comes from her.

Her name is Theresa Wright (my interview with her here), the founder and proprietor of Renaissance Nutrition of East Norriton, Penn. I’ve never seen her office; she has occasionally held office hours in Boston over the years, and otherwise we meet by phone. She understands food addiction better than any non-food addict I’ve ever met.

So what’s the deal here — I use most of (yet another) post excoriating the AND, and then I throw love and petals at Theresa?

Please note the very important phrase “as a class” that I used in my intro. I have met, or had indirect exposure to many RDs, and most of them have been disappointing — misguided, tone deaf, or worse. (Here, I'm commenting about individuals I've had direct or indirect exposure to, and feel reasonable in my comments, while wishing I had better/nicer results to report.) Their overarching counsel has been “everything in moderation,” which is a lousy cornerstone, in my opinion.

But some RDs have both more sense and a more robust quiver of tools. I provide contact information for a half-dozen of them on the “Fat Boy Thin Man” website and am happy to send business their way. They are part of the solution.

But overall, who's best qualified to give nutritional advice? A fair person assessing the woeful state of nutritonal health in America would have to conclude, we haven't found that group yet.

As always, I think I'm right but don't claim a monopoly on it. I'd love to hear your comments.

Author and wellness innovator Michael Prager helps smart companies
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