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Nutritionists Accuse CrossFit Trainers of Disagreeing with Nutritionists
Nutrition has become one of the internet’s most controversial topics, up there with race, gender and kipping pull-ups. Recently, the pro-vegan Netflix documentary called “What the Health” has denied that sugar causes Type 2 diabetes, drawing criticism even from vegans such as dietitian Andy Bellatti (Bellatti’s work on corporate influence in nutrition is essential reading).
Meanwhile, The Lancet recently published a series of papers that questioned the basis of 40-years’ worth of dietary guidelines. The Lancet series found that carbohydrate intake, not fat or even saturated fat, correlated with risk of death.
The Lancet pieces won’t be the last word in the nutrition debate, nor should they be. Definitive answers in health don’t come from epidemiological studies. People are complicated and diverse, and it’s incredibly hard to narrow any effects down to a single factor. Even other types of nutritional studies face daunting challenges. Subjects are notably unreliable at recalling what they ate. And even if you supply the subjects with nutritional guidance or meals, can you guarantee their full compliance? How do we know Subject #37 didn’t smuggle in a KitKat bar?
You might think that this inherent uncertainty in nutrition, combined with the abysmal failure of the past 40 years of food policy/guidelines, would instill a bit of humility in registered nutritionists and dietitians. You’d be wrong. The nutritionist lobby has gone on the offensive recently, attempting to silence those who question their dogma, from North Carolina Paleo blogger Steve Cooksey to South African exercise scientist and M.D., Professor Tim Noakes. Their hit list has even included some CrossFit affiliates who dared tell their clients to avoid sugar and cut back on processed carbohydrates.
While the nutritionist lobby attacked these renegade bloggers, tweeters and gym owners, it also made a lot of friends among food and beverage companies. Take the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ most recent conference. It featured“companies like PepsiCo and Nestle (which makes candy like KitKat and Butterfinger) … the American Beverage Association, the National Confectioners Association and the Sugar Association.” So some nutritionists can’t bear the idea of Steve Cooksey blogging about the Paleo diet but apparently see no problem with an American Beverage Association booth at a *nutrition* conference.
One reason the nutritionists have gotten away with all of this is they’re good at lobbying. They’re so good, in fact, that they’ve gotten state governments to regulate and restrict free speech about food. Registered nutritionists and dietitians enjoy a degree of legal protection due to occupational licensure laws in most states. These laws restrict who is allowed to say what about food. Nutritionist licensure laws vary from state to state; not all states have them.
How have we let the nutritionist lobby repress a basic human freedom: to warn that the well is poisoned (to paraphrase Greg Glassman)? You don’t need a license to warn someone about cigarettes or asbestos. Why do you need anyone’s permission to warn them about soda? In fact, we have a moral obligation to warn of a substance that is fatal or sickening at common exposure levels. Public silence on toxic substances is deadly, but that’s exactly what the Big Soda-funded Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has accomplished.
It is in this context of intense debate and legal disputes that a Ball State University professor of nutrition and her graduate student published a study claiming to evaluate the “sports nutrition knowledge” of CrossFit trainers. The authors, both members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, created a nutritional survey. Their names are Cassie Maxwell and Carol Friesen. Unfortunately, Maxwell and Friesen’s study didn’t work out quite the way they planned.
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