The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics group (AND), composed of 74,000 nutrition professionals, have grown increasingly easy to buy off over the past decade. In 2001, the Academy listed a mere 10 food industry sponsors, while only 10 years later list 38 sponsors, nearly four times the prior amount.
This is troubling for a few reasons, as this report points out. At last year’s nutrition symposium, only a small percentage of organizations in attendance absorbed 25 percent of the exhibition space – only two of the 18 organizations in question represented whole, non-processed foods – and only 12 percent of the exhibition space was taken up by fruit and vegetable vendors. Lobbyists for high fructose corn syrup sponsored sessions at the latest meeting, while three other sponsors (Coca-Cola, Mars, PepsiCo) were found “unacceptable” by a survey of registered dieticians at a rate of 80 percent.
The Academy is afraid of upsetting sponsors by suggesting diets consistently found to be healthy, and instead appear to have stuck to the status-quo. AND chooses not to support nutrition policies such as soda taxes or GMO labels, despite that they appear to be a step in the proper direction for fighting obesity or other potential maladies. Although dieticians and nutritionists suggest that half of your plate should be made up of fruits and veggies, promoting a mostly vegetarian diet may anger the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, AND’s most loyal sponsor since 2001.
The conflict of interest is clear. If Coca-Cola sponsors the Academy and garners a few nutritionists who have the gall to stand up and suggest that Coke is not bad for people, Coke now has the credibility that an “expert” has stated in plain writing that their products aren’t unhealthy, as is widely known by everyone over the age of 5. Even if this gives a boost in sales of only 1 percent, this is enough to drive up profits by wide enough margins to be worth the investment.
In the end, it turns out nutrition is a business worth corrupting by those who make their name on proper diet.