March marks “National Nutrition Month” and it’s being celebrated by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics with offerings of lack-luster nutrition advice. Absent from its messaging is any useful, evidence-based dietary guidance, and the academy’s connections to big food are likely to blame.
With more than 100,000 registered dietitians, nutrition practitioners, and students, the prominent academy is regarded as an establishment in which people look to for superior dietary instruction. The Nutrition Month campaign was launched back in 1973 to “encourage sound eating and physical activity habits.”
This March, the academy is offering free resources on its website with topics such as tips for healthy eating and good nutrition on a budget. You’ll find a few useful crumbs of advice like “watch portion sizes” or “drink more water” but you may be left with cravings of actual science-based dietary advice for eating to promote health and longevity.
The most notable missing piece of the academy’s recommendations is the warning against processed foods. According to a study published in Frontiers in Nutrition, more than 60 percent of caloric intake in the U.S. comes from ultra-processed fare. Health risks associated with packaged food consumption include diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and dementia and—most concerning—all-cause mortality.
While there are a few mild statements regarding sugar such as “foods and drinks with added sugars can contribute empty calories and little or no nutrition,” it fails to mention how excessive sugar intake leads to diabetes, weight gain, high blood pressure, inflammation, and fatty liver disease—all of which are linked to increased risk for heart attack and stroke. Never once does the academy advise consumers to stop drinking sodas.
Aside from failing to share the dangers of eating processed and sugary foods, there are some direct recommendations to consume items such as vegetable oil and pre-packaged frozen dinners. Time and again, vegetable oil has been proven to increase risk of heart disease, cancer, mortality, cognitive disorders, and obesity, while pre-packaged frozen dinners commonly contain these oils along with other additives and preservatives. These faulty guidelines go against numerous science-based nutrition guidelines and the widespread proclamation of such endorsements may spark curiosity by nutrition and medical professionals.
A study published in Public Health Nutrition in 2022, co-authored by US Right to Know, found a “symbiotic relationship” between The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and its corporate funders. The study discovered that $15 million in corporate funding was accepted by the academy from groups such as Conagra, Coca-Cola, General Mills, and Hershey’s.
The academy’s connection to these corporations goes further than receiving financial backing. They also invest in processed food brands such as PepsiCo and Nestle, as well as a plethora of pharmaceutical companies. As the catchphrase goes, simply “follow the money.”
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