Why Would Dietitians Recommend Mini-Cans of Soda as a Good Choice for a Snack?

18 May

First, what is a Registered Dietician?  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ website says they are, “The world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals.  The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education, and advocacy.” 

According to their website, “Registered dietitian nutritionists – RDNs – are the food and nutrition experts who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living.  RDNs use their nutrition expertise to help individuals make unique, positive lifestyle changes.  They work throughout the community in hospitals, schools, public health clinics, nursing homes, fitness centers, food management, food industry, universities, research and private practice.  RDNs are advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world.” 

In other words, Registered Dietitians are serious nutrition experts.  So, why would some registered dietitians suggest a mini-can of cola as a snack?  In fact, according to an article in the Star Tribune, “In February, several… experts wrote online posts for American Heart Month, with each including a mini-can of Coke or soda as a snack idea.  The pieces – which appeared on nutrition blogs and other sites including those of major newspapers – offer a window into the many ways food companies work behind the scenes to cast their products in a positive light, often with the help of third parties who are seen as trusted authorities.” 

The answer to this puzzling question can be found in a statement given to the Star Tribune by a Coca-Cola spokesperson, “We have a network of dietitians we work with… Every big brand works with bloggers or has paid talent.” 

The article also states, “Other companies including Kellogg and General Mills have used strategies like providing continuing education classes for dietitians, funding studies that burnish the nutritional images of their products, and offering newsletters for health experts.  PepsiCo Inc. has also worked with dietitians who mention its Frito-Lay and Tostito chips in local TV segments on healthy eating.  Others use nutrition experts in sponsored content; the American Pistachio Growers has quoted a dietitian for the New England Patriots in a piece on healthy snacks and recipes, and Nestle has quoted its own executive in a post about infant nutrition.”

In other words, it seems like these dietitians are getting paid to endorse a product that may not necessarily benefit the health of the people in their audience.  Everyone knows celebrities and athletes get paid a tremendous amount of money to endorse all kinds of things, including junk food.  Many times top athletes are paid more in endorsement deals than they make playing their sport, but is it really appropriate for certified nutrition experts to get paid to write about nutritional advice that may benefit their sponsors more than their readers?

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