American Dietetic Association Refuses to Acknowledge Benefits of Organic Food

It should come as no surprise to those who are faithful to sustainable, traditional ways of eating that many far and wide oppose our beliefs about returning to nutrient-dense and older ways of growing, preparing, and selling food.  It is our duty to take a stand against agencies that seek to bring down the potential of great health we have in our communities by speaking out against literature and “research” which makes false claims.

Because of this transfer of false information, there are many people led astray in trying to decide what’s truthful information and what isn’t. The American Dietetic Association is one of the primary organizations relied on by the public for sources of health and nutrition. For decades, the ADA has provided a wealth of information about these topics. Unfortunately, they have been guilty of releasing  much incorrect information, much to the detriment of the masses. As with many topics on nutrition, they have taken a stand about organic food, and it is this:

If you visit their web site, you will find a definitive statement claiming that “no scientific evidence shows that these foods are healthier or safer than conventionally grown foods.” They maintain this stance despite the following research conducted by their Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group which reveal that plants grown in organic systems contain higher levels of nutrients and an organic diet avoids the serious health risks associated with pesticide exposure.

Unfortunately when agencies like the ADA who are followed so closely by individuals, health centers and organizations, physicians, and other entities recommend information to the public of this nature, many don’t realize the harmful effects their guidelines have on general health. By failing to support this important information, the ADA is undermining one of the best ways we as a civilization have of combating degenerative illness and disease, as well as degradation to our environment and economy. According to the Journal of Applied Nutrition, across the board, organic foods are superior in nutritional content and contain less toxic materials than conventionally grown foods.

But it doesn’t stop there.

The ADA also refuses to acknowledge the dangers of chemical ingredients and the genetic engineering of foods grown and sold on the market. It is interesting to note that this organization is a non-profit with a healthy donor list comprised of many influential and powerful corporations and individuals including, but not limited to, the following (with donation amounts listed for 2008):

  • Pepsi Co ($25,000 to $49,000)
  • Cargill ($10,000 to $24,000)
  • General Mills ($100,000 in 2008)
  • McCormick & Company ($5,000 to $9,999)
  • ConAgra ($5,000 to $9,999)
  • The National Cattleman’s Beef Association ($10,000 to $24,000)
  • National Dairy Council ($10,000 to $24,000)
  • Unilever Best Foods ($1,000 to $1,999)

Each of these corporations are well-known and documented to produce industrial food in the form of meat or dairy products, grains, and many packaged, processed foods containing toxins and chemicals found to cause health problems when consumed by human beings. One great source of information for this is the movie Food, Inc. Also, visit the Organic Consumer’s Association for reliable information about the effects of Monsanto’s product, Roundup. Sustainable Table has reliable data and sources detailing the dangers of pesticides and other harmful chemicals that are used in every aspect of our food system from meat to dairy to grains to soy to produce.

According to the American Dietetics Association web site, the ADA’s purpose is the following:

“The American Dietetic Association Foundation (ADAF) is the world’s largest charitable organization devoted exclusively to nutrition and dietetics. ADAF is the philanthropic arm of the American Dietetic Association and a 501(c)3 charity”.

How could a charitable organization be so closely tied with big powerful corporations? Seems that there is a conflict of interest here. So if you were wondering whether the American Dietetic Association provides factual, scientific information about health, food, and nutrition, it bears mentioning that their philosophies and recommendations about what to eat are right in line with what industrial food companies sell to consumers.  All you have to do is follow the money – some of the most profitable and powerful food corporations in the world, as it turns out, are some of the ADA’s biggest sponsors.

“Smells like money to me!” – Food, Inc.

School lunch woes

One prominent place you can see the influence of the ADA at work is in managing school lunch menus for children. I’ve personally had conversations with the registered dietitians who run the school lunch program in my city, Boise, Idaho and gotten pretty much nowhere. I started an effort and was joined by a small group of parents and other concerned citizens last summer. We brought the film ‘Two Angry Moms‘ to our city in October of 2008. The dieticians watched it, and were almost completely unaffected by its important message.

Our goal was to make much needed changes to our menus by doing research, providing reliable evidence of the negative effect the food served by the school system has on children’s health, and have a discussion after the film about what we could do together to change things for the better. The head dietician got up to speak after the film and said, “it’s nice to know we’re one of the good guys!” To which the majority of the audience was utterly appalled and in disbelief.

It’s been over a year and nothing has happened (yet). The persistent idea held by these dietitians that children need low-fat foods and that processed foods are just fine and healthy to consume is not only annoying, but it is permanently damaging to our children’s health. This is one reason among many that I am thankful we are homeschooling this year.

ADA guidelines and recommendations for health

From my own experience, I have observed that the general teachings of registered dietitians (like many conventional doctors and nurses) include following a low-fat diet with “lean meats” that are “skinless and boneless”, little “red meat”, and “whole grains” (which include many processed foods such as store-bought breads, crackers, pasta, cereals, bagels, and  tortillas). We are also told to avoid healthy fats like butter and lard, cut sodium from our diets, and are encouraged to consume polyunsaturated fats such as vegetable oils (which seems contradictory given the fact that most of the processed foods they tell us to eat are high in salt!).

Registered dietitians remind us frequently to count calories, watch fat, and maintain portion control. So, eat less and cut out the things that give us staying power and keep us from getting hungry sooner – fat and protein. No wonder people are always hungry and can’t maintain their normal weight!

They do recommend eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, but do not stand behind the idea that organic is superior for health.

Because their  beliefs include eating a lot of processed, industrial foods, it seems unbelievable that anyone would actually follow these  teachings. But the reality is, it’s these very ideas which have brought our nation and many other developed nations into the heart disease, Diabetes, obesity, and other degenerative diseases epidemic we now find ourselves in.

Anyone reading this who understands the importance of real food and traditional foods in the role of health knows that dietary fat is critical in maintaining health – but not just any fat…we need real butter, lard, and tallow from healthy animals raised naturally. We need grass-fed meats and poultry, and pasture-raised eggs. We need sustainable, organically grown fruits and vegetables. We also need naturally-fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and lacto-fermented vegetables.

In short, we need REAL FOOD. Can we achieve this? Of course we can!  It just takes some education and determination. We need the real foods from nature as intended by our Creator to make us healthy. People have been eating this way for millennia. It’s only been in the last 100 plus years that we’ve seen a sharp decline in our good eating habits, and consequently, chronic degenerative disease.

So I ask this simple question:

How could modern-day science possibly succeed at altering and improving on something from nature (i.e., real, whole foods) that have worked to nourish our bodies for so many thousands of years?

This post is part of Cheeseslave’s Real Food Wednesdays Carnival.

This post was featured on the Organic Consumer Association’s News Headlines page on August 21, 2009. Visit their site and read about organic and sustainable news there.

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18 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Great article, Raine! Your efforts with your local school lunch program are quite commendable and your story about the “good guy” dietitian is a convincing testament of how badly many of us, particularly dietitians, have been brainwashed by the food pyramid. I actually had a dietitian comment on my blog in defense of sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Unbelievable!

  2. 2

    localnourishment said,

    In July, the ADA promoted a vegetarian diet as healthful for all, including infants, children, adults, and during pregnancy and lactation. I did a piece on my blog about it then. As far as I’m concerned, the ADA has fallen so far from reality as not to be trusted for reliable information anymore. It is clear that they are allowing money to make their calls for them, a sad state of affairs.

    It can also be seen as a good thing, though. Because they have tipped their hand so obviously that their interests lie in their contributors and not the state of nutrition, we can be aware of their leanings and take their recommendations appropriate grains of salt.

  3. 3

    AS said,

    Vin – I do remember the dietitian who made the comment on your article about corn syrup, and you’re right. The idea that someone would defend an industrial product like corn syrup is unthinkable! But, that’s the line of thinking and educational angle for individuals going to school to study dietetics and other related disciplines.

    local nourishment – you are right, the fact that these individuals blunder so in the ways of health and nutrition should hopefully, over time, reveal the shortcomings of these approaches to eating healthy and getting optimal nutrition in the modern world. It is my personal hope that this occur sooner, than later for the sake of all our health! Especially our children.

  4. 4

    Eisce said,

    This kind of non profit is the stable for the glue factory.

  5. 5

    Mary Smith said,

    I agree and hope that all dietitians/nutritionists ae ready to break out of the Food Guide Pyramid mold that is dictated by big business. Lets talk healthy food not Cheerios that are loaded with na, additives and preservatives, Cheerios are NOT health food! Diet soda, duh, soda-HFCS. I am going to stop right here, most of you know, most of you care most of you don’t chug along on the FGP road.
    Mary
    RD,LD/N, CDE

  6. 6

    AS said,

    Thanks for your comment, Mary. I really appreciate hearing from RD/LDs who know the typical mantra/philosophy touted by the Dietetic Association is incorrect and harmful to the health of the general populace. I hope more of you will step up, speak up, and hopefully act to change the current modes of thinking and ways of educating students, future teachers/RD-LDs who will subsequently educate and inform the public about correct choices for health and nutrition, which of course include the same principles forwarded by WAPF (Weston A. Price Foundation) for health through consumption of foods found in the traditional diets like saturated fats & proteins found in grass-fed meats (and lard and tallow) and real, raw dairy products, real, healthy oils like coconut, olive, and palm oil, and organically and sustainable-produced produce. Keep up the good work!

  7. 7

    Fortunately, in this age of the internet, data becomes more transparent. Follow the data (scientific evidence) and you will find the truth. Follow the money and you will find conflict of interest.

    While I am a member of the American Dietetic Association, the ADA does not represent my thinking. Please know however, that I am proud to be a registered dietitian–it’s a lot of work to earn and maintain the “RD” 😉

    Books such as In Defense of Food (Michael Pollen) and the China Study (T Colin Campbell), clearly indicate the need to re-think our US food and nutrition policies.

    Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD

    Co-author Intuitive Eating
    Editor, Omega-6-News [ http://www.omega-6-news.org ]

  8. 8

    I am what I refer to as an alternative Regsitered Dietitian. I have my own opinions about eating, diet and health and I feel free to speak my mind. I’ve been a dietitian, teaching cooking, for more than 20 years. I agree with Mary’s comments above.

    I advocate for “real” food, from the earth, not processed food, and encourage and teach people how to cook it, deliciously and easily.

    I believe in organic food but more importantly in what will sustain people and the planet. My hope is that more and more dieititians will move away from the “one size fits all” diet model.

    Jill Nussinow, MS, RD
    The Veggie Queen
    http://www.theveggiequeen.com and http://www.theveggiequeen.blogspot.com

  9. 9

    AS said,

    Hi Jill and Evelyn – so glad to hear from the both of you, and especially to know that there are people in the industry who are sensible and educated about food. This is really the one of the primary ways the ADA can hopefully experience the change we need to influence the masses in the ways of real, healthy nutrition habits through whole and traditional foods. It would be interesting to know how your opinions and beliefs, each respectively, are received by the wider health and medical communities. Have you been able to successfully implement and teach proper nutritional principles in environments where you both live and work? While I lack a degree in nutrition, I am educated and a college graduate. Still, I’ve had a difficult time influencing people around me towards sustainable living and nutrition through real food.

    There is a common mis-perception held by people that if you don’t have training in a specific area, you cannot possibly know or teach about that subject. I know the principles I stand for have validity in regard to health, and I have no trouble articulating myself in writing nor in speaking, but one of my biggest obstacles is in the individuals I’ve gone up against with regard to this subject – they are extremely rigid in their thinking patterns about health, and refuse to acknowledge the importance and evidence the role that real food plays in people’s health. As time goes on, with the interest I have in this subject and with this web site, and with the help of folks like both of you ladies, I hope that will change more and more.

  10. 10

    Julie Negrin said,

    I just wanted to pipe in to say that I absolutely agree with the author of this piece. I am an ADA member but also do not subscribe to most of their stances. I am a nutritionist – not a registered dietitian – and a graduate of Bastyr University (a naturopathic university in Seattle). Back in 1994, I made the conscious decision to not pursue becoming a registered dietitian – mostly because I was diagnosed with a chronic disease as a teen and knew I didn’t want to work in a hospital (fortunately, I’ve been in remission for over 10 years, thanks to alternative medicine). I understand the public’s growing distrust of the ADA – the conflict of interest is becoming more and more apparent, now that the country is moving in a more progressive direction. However, I’d like to advise people to not lump all dietitians into the same category. I know many forward-thinking dietitians, through the Hunger Environmental Nutrition group at the ADA – and of course, through my work at Bastyr University. After my not-so-great experiences with doctors and dietitians as a patient at a very young age, it was easy to feel frustrated with ALL doctors and practitioners. But it’s important to keep in mind that many health care workers, including dietitians, are doing the best that they can with the training that they have received – and that there are thousands of dietitians at the ADA who don’t all think exactly the same way (and often feel frustrated with the ADA too – you heard from 2 of them up above). Clearly, our system is in need of some major fixing. What’s happening at the ADA is just a symptom of our failing health care industry problem – major corporations have become much too intertwined with the organizations that need to remain impartial to industry pressures (e.g. medical community and the pharm industry). For the last few decades, our country has not placed a strong value in nutrition which means few dollars being funneled to the ADA. I’m not excusing them from taking money from Big Food (believe me!) but like most of our country’s problems, it’s rooted in economics. It’s going to take some time to fix it, though. In the mean time, please know that dietitians and other food professionals like myself need the support of the public and passionate individuals like yourself. We need you to find dedicated educators whose values are the same as yours and work with us in making this huge, and very necessary shift in nutrition education. It’s in all of our best interests to unite and work together. Perhaps you could interview a couple of HEN members who share your philosophy – they have a lot of knowledge to offer! I am always learning from the members of HEN – they are a very smart group of people. Thanks for your candid post and keep up the great work!

  11. 11

    I agree with Evelyn, Jill and Julie, I am also a graduate of Bastyr University, I am a memeber of the ADA and a Registered Dietitian. Please don’t lump us all into one group. I advocate real, whole foods to my clients, and a holistic path to health. Many of us RD’s are frustrated with some of the remarks made by ADA, and the conflicts of interest you mention.

  12. 12

    AS said,

    Julie and Kelly – I’m glad many of you are voicing your dissent against the philosophies of the ADA and modern thinking about food. Julie, thanks for sharing your story, it’s great to hear what individuals have experienced and are doing as a result of what’s been happening at large in our country with regard to the food industry. It’s certainly easy to see why low-fat philosophies have led to many of the problems we are now facing as a culture and nation with weight, health, and disease. Unfortunately, all of my experience with dietitians has been with those who believe low-fat and processed foods are the order of the day. And I’ve encountered them in varying environments from the health club I used to work at to the school lunch realm to private organizations such as the Humphrey’s Diabetes Organization here in Boise, Idaho where I live.

    Please understand, I am definitely not lumping any of you or anyone else who feels this way with the general ADA. However, I think it’s evident that those who harbor the mainstream philosophy about health are in the majority – those recommendations are taught in every corner of our society – in schools, through the health and medical communities, health clubs (I worked in one and finally left because no one there would listen to me), and many other areas. It’s become clear that this is the predominant way of thinking as more people I talk to believe it than don’t. And money is always an issue. Companies want to cut costs of producing products so they can make more for themselves – and it’s become the only thing that matters.

    From the few dietitians and nutritionists who have spoken out on this forum alone, I can see there must be many others who feel similarly. When an organization you belong to recommends philosophies you don’t believe in, it’s time to take a stand and make your voice known. Individuals such as all the RD/LDs and nutritionists on this thread have a great deal of power as you have earned the required credentials and are members of the very organization with which you disagree. Why not organize yourselves and stand together with the research and studies you feel are sufficient to back up your premise that we must have a change in the way we think about food and health? It’s up to the members of organizations that are behaving badly to take a stand and advocate for change. Otherwise things will stay the same. And talking about it will only go so far – change must be acted upon!

    Over the last number of months, I’ve become inflamed over various issues and have written letters to various organizations, legislators, congressmen, and the White House letting everyone know how I feel about food issues, safety, sustainability, and food policy in this country. Most of the responses I get are that “we’re doing all we can to make changes occur”, but there is never anything specific mentioned about what types of change nor that the changes will fall in line with organic, sustainable, elimination of chemcials/pesticides/hormones/antbiotics, etc. So I just keep writing. I also maintain this site in the hopes that people will see it and be inspired.

  13. 13

    lsmithrd said,

    First of all I want to say thanks to the author for a well written and thoughtful piece. Second, I am happy to see other dietitians commenting. I, too, am a registered dietitian and agree with the other RDs that the ADA has views, opinions and conflicts of interest that do not represent all dietitians and it is our responsibility to create dialogue about these differences in order to create positive change. As Evelyn mentioned, I, too, am proud on my RD credential despite these political issues because it represents the countless hours of learning, studying and practicing to be a competent, nutrition professional. As professionals we should constantly be using our own minds, judgment, and experience to process information and form opinions on pertinent topics such as this one. Often times this may involve going against the mainstream or traditional viewpoint.

    I consider myself an open minded and progressive RD and I know many others like myself. I am a contributing writer for the Green Fork, the blog of the Eat Well Guide, which focuses on fresh, locally grown and sustainably produced food in the United States and Canada. I currently have a private practice in Los Angeles working with patients with obesity, diabetes, and kidney disease and other conditions. I originally decided I wanted to become an RD when I was in high school working at a (large) health food store and wanted to continue to learn about food, nutrition, and the human body.

    Thanks for the great post and opening up important discussion.

  14. 14

    Tara said,

    I agree with all the comments of my fellow RD’s. To be a dietitian is to understand what good food is and why it is good for your body. I know there are dietitians on there (many whom have commented here) who see the true connections between organic agricultural practices, good nutrition, and the health of generations.

    I recently wrote a blog in defense of organic food being the healthier and more nutritious choice for our bodies, families, and planet. I would be honored to have anyone of you read and send me your opinions.

    http://www.clifbar.com/blog/detail/the_latest_debate_on_organic_food/

    It is my hope that we can drive change in things that have remained status quo due to habit and money.

    Tara DelloIacono Thies, RD
    Clif Bar & Company Nutrition Strategist

  15. 15

    AS said,

    Thank you LeeAnn and Tara for your comments. I want to reiterate again that it is so great to hear support of traditional, organic, and sustainable food and lifestyle choices from RD/LDs and nutritionists. I must once again emphasize the importance of your influence on the health community at large, and in particular toward the ADA, who represents RD/LDs and nutritionists everywhere. With so many individuals coming forward and declaring their allegiance to truly healthy lifestyles with real, organic, sustainable, and traditional foods, it seems absolutely certain that your influence could positively impact the wider health communities if you communicate your disapproval of the production, distribution, sales, and marketing of chemically-laden foods and corporate interests in food communities and movement toward educating consumers about making healthy choices with real food. I’m urging you all here, those of you with the power to influence the ADA and other similar organizations, now is the time to make noise and take action. We have so many food issues at hand that adversely affect the health of our population – and your expertise and education will hold weight in medical and health sectors like no one else’s – because the emphasis is on educated individuals who have studied and trained to be the “experts” to which we look for guidance.

  16. 16

    the best thing about organic foods is that they are free from hazardous chemicals that are present in non-organic foods;-`

  17. 17

    Health said,

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  18. 18

    Wow, awesome blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your site is excellent, as well as the content!


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