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When Andy Bellatti completed his graduate degree in nutrition studies at NYU, he was shocked to find that the “continuing education” credits he was required to take every year were sponsored by Coca-Cola and the Corn Refiners Association.
“I could earn one credit by hearing about how Sun Chips are good source of whole grains and why I should recommend them to clients,” he tells Rob. “What makes it most infuriating is that these presentations are looked at as so-called ‘sound science.’ If you stand against them, you’re stigmatized.”
Disturbed by the food industry’s control over the continuing education of dietitians, Andy decided to co-found the organization “Dietitians for Professional Integrity,” which seeks to expose the cosy relationships between the food industry and front organizations like the “American Society for Nutrition.” These “societies” purport to research nutrition while receiving generous funds from McDonald’s and pharmaceutical companies.
“I studied nutrition to learn about health, and to help people achieve better living through food,” he says. “If I wanted to advertise for the food industry, I would have sought out an MBA.”
With so much dietary tribalism out there, it’s easy to get confused about the real cause of the obesity epidemic: the food industry. By lobbying the U.S. government to subsidize foods that are unhealthy, funding sham studies to confuse the public and misinforming via social media, the industry wants to ensure that the average consumer can’t tell the difference between a pop tart and a Kale salad.
“Why are we debating garbanzo beans when we could redirect that energy to taking on the food industry?” Andy asks. “The truth is that the industry thrives on misinformation. People are terrified of dietary fat and think a Nutrigrain bar is healthier than a handful of almonds or an avocado. [The industry] wants the consumer to think that cooking is hard and, instead, they should pick up Rice-a-Roni, Hamburger Helper or Betty Crocker mashed potatoes. People don’t realize you can make a home-cooked meal in 15-20 minutes.”
Bellatti is also exposing the food industry’s cosy ties to government-sponsored healthy eating programs:
“Even in the USDA’s “My Plate” campaign, you still see how powerful the dairy lobby is because people are encouraged to have three servings of dairy a day and drink milk with every meal. This isn’t necessary. What should be next to that plate is a glass of water.”
Bellatti encourages folks to look up the organizations that fund studies through sites like Source Watch before believing the health claims they see in news stories.
To find out more about the industry’s dirty tactics, check out Bellati’s articles below. If you have any questions about what you’ve heard, tweet us at #askopensky or record a voicemail on OpenSkyFitness.com by pressing on the “send voicemail” tab.