Opining on Dr. Katz’ “Opinion Stew” article

You may have caught Dr. David Katz’ blog post “Opinion Stew” last Friday in the Huffington Post’s Healthy Living section. For those who read it, you’re probably not surprised that the story was a hot item this week in the RD community. And if you didn’t read it, here’s my interpretation

Everyone is looking for the magic weight loss pill. So much so that people are willing to spend hard-earned dough on books written by people—with no nutrition education—who have successfully lost weight, buy “miracle” supplements with no—or even contrary—evidence that they work or listen to the “nutritionist” who took a one-day class on holistic nutrition. For some bizarre reason, we are so willing to jump on an outlandish weight loss wagon but usually unwilling to make even the simplest changes in our lifestyles.

As Dr. Katz writes in his blog post:

“Everyone who has ever gotten fat and then lost weight is embraced as an expert, fully authorized by our culture to dispense advice and sell books advising others on how to succeed. For the most part, every one of these makes a case different from every other — and yet every one is convinced they have found the universal formula. And over and over again, the faithful, or hopeful, line up and reach for their credit cards.”

Then he gives some entertaining analogies… that driving again after a bad car crash automatically makes someone a motor vehicle safety expert or that someone who once hiked in Alaska without being eaten by a bear is automatically qualified to provide guidance on how to manage them. He writes that most of us would disregard these claims by non-qualified individuals as simply nonsense. So, why is the field of nutrition—particularly with regard to weight loss—treated differently?

Dr. Katz’ quote from his post sums this notion up perfection:

“Everyone who has ever eaten seems to be granted an equally authoritative opinion about nutrition. This is not just nonsense. It’s dangerous nonsense.”

The Bottom Line

Nutrition is arguably the single most important mechanism we have to control our health—from how long our ticker ticks and mind stays sharp to how much energy we have for that afternoon meeting and for chasing our kids. No, a perfect diet does not guarantee a life free of cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. But frankly, it is the best tool within our control.

And, let’s not forget that nutrition is a science. Dietary recommendations—or “best practices,” in corporate speak—changes because science evolves as our understanding and research capabilities evolve.

As Dr. Katz poses, let’s leave nutrition and weight loss to the nutrition experts.

Registered Dietitian vs Nutritionist

So, who is qualified to dispense nutrition advice? Those who have a degree or training in nutrition. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (“Academy”), the “RD” or “RDN” credential (Registered Dietitian and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, respectively) is “a legally protected title” that can only be used by individuals who have demonstrated the following:

  • Earned a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nutrition science (and according to the “Academy,” about half of all RDs hold advanced degrees)
  • Completed a supervised practice program
  • Passed a registration examination
  • Maintain continuing education requirements for continued certification

Some RDs may refer to themselves as a “nutritionist,” but only nutritionists with the RD/RDN credential can call themselves registered dietitians.

TELL US: What are your thoughts on experts in the nutrition field? We’d love to hear from you.