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Sunday 17 April 2016

Why so many dietitians have ‘HITS’ syndrome

UPDATE: If ever there were signs that HITS (Head In The Sand ) syndrome is rife among dietitians, it’s the latest anonymous statement from the Association for Dietetics in SA (ADSA) and the Nutrition Society of SA, that went out to doctors and dietitians in South Africa in March. It lays out its ongoing obsessive ‘case’ against low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) and dietary saturated fat, despite the growing body of scientific evidence to the contrary. It once again demonstrates a lack of understanding of the difference between correlation and causation. It ignores all compelling evidence contrary to its argument. It shows why it is not in the public interest for them to have the monopoly on giving dietary advice. Here, Eategrity consumer activist Sonia Mountford looks at why ADSA is becoming increasingly irrelevant in the face of advice it gives that favours Big Food and the science behind it.  – Marika Sboros 

By Sonia Mountford

Dieticians wedded to old nutrition paradigms still like to tell people all they have to do to lose weight is eat less and excercise more. Restricting the practice of nutrition to dietitians only is not in the public’s best interests, more so when the credibility of their representative body, the Association Dietetics South Africa (ADSA) compromised due to their funding by Big Food.

Yet that is what the Health Professions Council of SA (HSPCA) are seemingly supporting at the behest of ADSA, by helping to press the mute button on all other dietary advice that ADSA disapproves of.

South Africa’s health community is in desperate need of a dose of integrity and needs to acknowledge the growing awareness globally of “conventional” dietary advice being questioned due to Big Food influence.

In The Rise and Fall of Dietetics and of Nutrition Science, 4000 BCE-2000 CE, British epidemiologist Dr Geoffrey Cannon says nutrition science in its modern form dates from the early to mid-nineteenth century; it had the effect of creating dietetics as a separate paramedical profession. “The first generations of physiologists, biochemists and physicians who created nutrition science along the lines of the disciplines in which they were trained, believed they could change the world,” says Cannon.

“So they did, once governments and industry endorsed their ideas. The dimensions of nutrition narrowed but its scope widened. It became less a philosophy of life, more an instrument of state.”

Nutrition science has provided the means for dieticians to influence mainstream media dietary advice and contribute to the definition of a healthy diet for government dietary guidelines and policy.

As I have previously questioned, just how trustworthy and credible can this dietary advice be and should dietetic associations and their sponsors have input into national food guidelines?

ADSA seems to suffer from what I call “head in the sand” (HITS) syndrome: ADSA must be aware that the concerns raised over conflicts of interest by their Big Food sponsorships won’t go away by merely burying their heads in the sand. Denial of these conflicts of interest won’t afford the opportunity for reflection or critical policy changes for the better either.

This is the most concerning aspect of ADSA’s unwillingness to acknowledge the sponsorship concerns repeatedly raised. Along with their unwillingness for real dialogue, their arrogance of claiming the arena of dietary advice puts at risk progress of real solutions to our obesity and the fight against non-communicable diseases (NCD’s, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer).

Can South African citizens afford a stronghold on this type of dietary advice? Probably not. Are dieticians and in particular, ADSA in danger of becoming irrelevant if they don’t begin to take these conflicts of interest seriously? Very probably.

HITS syndrome is not unique to ADSA. It’s pretty much a global phenomenon.

Far to long to post in full read more:



Linda said...

Yes, that's the case here in the USA too. You don't even need a study to see that our obsession with low-fat diets has been a disaster!

Anonymous said...

I was in the states last year for five weeks and I would say people were eating nothing like a low fat diet, most of it is just lip service eg. low fat Mayo is still about 50% fat.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it is not in the public interest to restrict the practice of nutrition to dietitians. Especially where there is significant debate surrounding the key advice provided by the profession. It is the biochemists, endocrinologists, and physicians who conduct a large proportion of research in this field. Dietitians are not the true or exclusive founders of science in nutrition, therefore to restrict the delivery of nutritional science exclusively to dietitians does seem particularly ill-fitting. A large proportion of dietitians work in healthcare settings, where a significant proportion of healthcare staff are sceptical and disagree with of the use of funding in dietetics to push supplements - making money for companies that specialise in specific products. Unfortunately, a significant proportion of dietitians have a questionable knowledge base in other areas, such as endocrinology, anatomy and physiology and medicine. It is unfortunate that the majority of the public do not have the experience to recognise that dietitians are not always the best specialists in the field.