How relevant are registered dietitians and their associations worldwide these days? That’s the question Cape Town consumer activist and Eategrity founder Sonia Mountford asks below of South African dietitians and their representative organisation, the Association for Dietetics in SA (ADSA).
Dieticians globally have long sought to appropriate to themselves a monopoly on diet and nutrition advice. It’s as if they’ve always believed their degrees confer a divine right to tell others what to eat and drink, and an omniscience by osmosis on optimum nutrition. Doctors have colluded by deferring to dietitians, and referring patients to them for weight loss, diabetes and other serious illness. In so doing, doctors have abrogated the responsibility the ancient Greek sage and father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, laid at their doorstep: to “let food be your medicine and medicine be your food”.
Government regulatory bodies globally, such as the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), have effectively sanctioned dietitians’ stranglehold on dietary dogma and input into official dietary guidelines – guidelines still in place in SA, and shown to be without any scientific foundation whatsoever when they were unleashed on an unsuspecting public globally 40 years ago.
Then there’s the global phenomenon of ‘cosy relationships’ many dietitians and their associations have with the food and pharmaceutical industries, especially sugar, soft drink and cereal companies. In SA, experts say ADSA hasn’t helped its own cause with dogged adherence to the now thoroughly discredited diet-heart hypothesis, including the demonisation of saturated fat and the belief that low-carb, high-fat (LCHF, aka Banting) diets are a danger to the public, especially children, and that sugar and soft drinks can be part of healthy, ‘balanced’ diets – despite growing and compelling scientific evidence to the contrary.
The proof of the effects of all this is in the devastating “pudding”: rampaging epidemics of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other so-called “non-communicable diseases” (NCDs), in SA and globally.
There are signs of changing times: doctors who realise it makes as much sense to ignore what their patients eat and drink as it does for organic farmers to ignore the state of the soil in which they grow food, and who acknowledge the well-documented link between diet and health; doctors who emulate the example of British NHS hospital doctor Elsa Draeger, an HIV and sexual health medicine specialist, who took to Twitter recently to say she has now “bypassed the dietitian”. Draegar and other doctors now routinely give weight loss and other vital health advice to patients even when it goes completely against conventional dietary “wisdom”.
Most of all, there is a bottom-up demand for change from ordinary people who are more educated and discerning about responsibility for their own health, and who question the legitimacy of nutrition advice from dietitians. Here, Mountford looks at why ADSA may be the reason registered dietitians have passed their sell-by date in SA, creating the need for a progressive alternative organisation to fill the vacuum. – Marika Sboros
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Much the same in here in the UK, the equivalent of the ADSA our own BDA is still promoting a low fat diet high in carbs even for those of us with diabetes, they are at present fighting a rearguard action with their Trust a Dietitian campaign http://www.trustadietitian.co.uk/
Should really be Don't Trust a BDA Dietitian especially for those of us with diabetes
I think we have to listen to our bodies and not to people who don't have our best interests at heart. I'm grateful that I know how bad excessive sugar is for our body, I hope more people know this too...
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