This past Sunday on Good Morning America, a "nutritionist" was profiled giving her nutrition expertise to the public.
To read the full story, check out the link here:
What to Eat When: Foods for Slimming, Sleeping and Satisfying
The comments/recommendations made by this "nutritionist" (which, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist) including statements such as:
"Don't eat protein bars because most of them contain soy protein isolate which difficult to digest and can slow thyroid function"
"Don't feed kids pre-packaged fruit snacks, even if they're 100% fruit juice because they are laced with sugar which spikes your child's blood sugar levels"
"Don't drink diet soda because it is high-glycemic and will throw blood sugars off. Also, it is acid-forming and demineralizes bones"
"Don't eat fruit at night because it will 'sit' on top of slower digesting foods in the stomach and cause indigestion"
Now, these statements really ruffled the feathers of many (many) Registered Dietitians (RD). First they were upset that this woman claimed to be a nutrition expert, when they feel a Registered Dietitian is the true nutrition expert. Then, they were upset because she made statements about diet soda and protein bars that they feel is not accurate.
If you check out both GMA's website on this story and the ADA's Facebook page, you'll see the plethora of comments from RDs about how this story was so terrible and how this woman was not credentialed to give this information.
Well, here's my two cents about all of this:
First, yes, I would have to agree that it should have been a RD on the show giving nutrition information rather than a self-proclaimed "nutrition expert". After having gone through 12 years of nutrition education myself and a dietetic internship to become a RD, I do respect the training some RDs have in order to be qualified to give nutrition advice.
HOWEVER, keep in mind that the majority of the public thinks most RDs are idiots. Some RDs only repeat what they read in nutrition textbooks, but never take the time to learn the recommendations themselves by sourcing back to the originial researched information. In some cases, for example, with the recommendations for a low-fat, low/moderate protein diet to make everyone healthy (even diabetics), they'd see that the recommendation was never based on any hard and sturdy science. A low-fat diet is not the answer to everyone's nutrition problems. Yes, maybe for some people it is a good choice, but overconsuming carbs because protein will kill you and fat is evil is not helping our country's expanding waistline. And, there is loads of real science on the benefits of carb restriction.
The RDs who commented on this story felt that the recommendation to not consume protein bars because they contain soy protein isolate was absolutely wrong and inaccurate. They feel soy is a great food, and that it is not harmful at all.
Yet, there is mounds of research showing that isolated soy proteins may actually have negative health implications for bone and hormonal balance. Thus, it may be wise to not overconsume isolated soy, in bars or other products. However, soy as a whole food (as edamame) and fermented soy products like natto, have been shown to be healthy and are foods often consumed by Asian cultures for hundreds of year without harm. So, perhaps this statement made on GMA wasn't so terrible, but could have been stated in a different way. She could have said that when looking for protein bar to look for proteins from non-soy sources like whey protein, hemp protein, rice protein or nut and seed protein instead because the health effects of soy protein isolate are questionable.
Then, her statement about diet soda is not entirely accurate, but not completely out to lunch either. As I posted recently, artificial sweeteners have been shown to have similar effects on metabolism as sugar - meaning that they seem to elicit the same insulin response and thus, act in the same way as the food they are trying to replace. Thus, the statement made on GMA could have instead referenced this research showing that it's better to avoid all sweeteners -real or fake - beause of their potential to increase risk factors for diabetes. The fact that they are high-glycemic though is not correct. They don't raise blood glucose levels. Instead, they could be considered high-insulinemic. So, for RDs to defend this statement as completely wrong could be valid, but instead, they should have corrected it based on scientific research showing how artificial sweeteners may actually not be the answer to everybody's blood sugar problems.
Finally, the statement about fruit seems quite odd. I don't know of anything that would say this is true. Also, this advice doesn't really help the mounds of people that desire something sweet after they eat dinner. Rather than eating cake or other desserts, I think fruit is a much better option. The statement recommends vegetables, and that's good too, but I don't think many people are craving carrot sticks to help them curb a sweet tooth. Show some evidence for this rotting effect and I'd be more convinced.
Overall, GMA should know better than to use someone without any credentials to give advice to millions of people. There are very bright and talented RDs out there that have busted their butts to become the true nutrition experts. Yes, this woman may have some good ideas, but just like other people have commented: if you wanted to give out medical advice, you wouldn't have ask a self-proclaimed medical expert to be on the show. You would have asked a true medical doctor. Do the same for your nutrition recommendations.
I'd love to hear any of your thoughts. I wrote this on the fly before leaving for work this morning (and between bouts of morning sickness), so if you have anything more to add, that would be great.