Is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Committed to Telling Americans the Truth About What They Are Eating?

by Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

A few days ago, an article appeared in the New York Times entitled, “Food Politics Creates Rift in Panel on Labeling,” by Stephanie Strom. It was about my dismissal from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics work group for not disclosing a business that I don’t even have.

eat right

The work group was tasked to review the evidence related to food technologies, including genetically modified foods. I was happy to be a part of the group because I have seen how industry uses these position papers to support their stance.  Last fall in the state of California, we had a proposition on the ballot that would require the labeling of genetically engineered foods. The state voters’ guide incorrectly said that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics had concluded that “biotech foods are safe.” However, the Academy’s position was expired, so they actually had no position.  The Academy issued a press release about this, but it was too late. The voter guide was already mailed to over 18 million registered voters. And Prop 37 lost. This is why I wanted to be on the group. I was hoping to prevent this from ever happening again.

Being on the work group was an interesting experience. Right off the bat, I had some major concerns, including the following:

  • Two members, Jennie Schmidt and Marianne Smith Edge, disclosed their ties to industry groups such as Monsanto.
  • The evidence review was not going to link to the position paper. And it would only include human studies, not animal. The problem with this is that there are not very many human studies to review.
  • The position paper was going to be written by Christine M. Bruhn, PhD, from UC Davis, a vocal supporter of genetically modified foods who is against labeling. UC Davis has strong ties to Monsanto.

I mentioned some of my concerns with the group and I also sent an email to an Academy employee involved with the project about the potential conflicts of interest. Because of my concerns, members of the group were asked to fill out the Academy’s disclosure statement again and disclose any money they might have received.

On March 22, 2013, I received a letter saying I was dismissed for not disclosing my consulting business, listed on my blog, I was shocked to say the least, especially since I do not have a business. At some point I would like to pursue one, but I am too busy with my full-time job and family obligations.

I sent the Academy 3 emails explaining that I do not have a business, that I did have questions, and would like to talk. Since the dismissal letter specifically stated, “Please contact us if you have any questions,” I was expecting a response back. I waited for over 3 weeks, but I heard nothing

And that is why I decided to talk to the New York Times.

Then the Academy posted a statement that was filled with inaccuracies.

I did not refuse to “disclose any and all conflicts of interest.” Why would I disclose something that does not exist? I did disclose however, that I received $135.00 from two sources that were relevant to the project, as they required.

The Academy also says that “She was simply asked, repeatedly, to disclose this information and she declined to do so.” However, it was my questioning of the group’s policy to include people on the committee with ties to industry that led to the Academy’s request for more information from the entire group, not only me.  And I complied with their request.

It was clear their minds were made up. A nonexistent business, not disclosed, was a bigger concern than two people who are involved with industries that would directly benefit from an evidence review and position paper with a positive slant toward genetically modified foods.

All of this posturing takes away from the real issue: Is it appropriate to have people involved with the biotech industry, which could benefit from the outcome, sit on a biotech-related work group? I don’t think so. Additionally, I found it alarming that the Academy was intent on moving forward with a position paper, written by Christine M. Bruhn, PhD, to be published before the evidence review was complete. She wrote the Academy’s 2006 position paper, which said that GMOs “…enhance the quality, safety, nutritional value, and variety of food available for human consumption and increase the efficacy of food production, processing, food distribution, and environmental and waste management.” I am guessing her 2013 version will offer up more of the same.

Sadly, it is the American people who are the losers in this situation because they will probably not get clear, unbiased, and balanced information about what to eat from the organization that represents the largest group of nutrition-related health professionals in the country.

Considering that we have no long-term evidence showing that genetically modified foods are safe for humans, the most responsible position the Academy could take would be to say, “The long-term health effects of genetically modified foods are unknown. Until and unless we know more, at minimum, they should be labeled.”

Is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics committed to telling Americans the truth about what they are eating? I, for one, am not convinced. What do you think?


Thanks to all the people who have supported me. Your kind works and notes of encouragement have meant so much to me. Someone even started a petition to get me reinstated to the work group!

Copyright © 2013 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

Five Diet and Lifestyle Changes That Can Lower Your Cancer Risk

By Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD

It seems like more and more people that I know are being diagnosed with cancer. Seven years ago, my mom died of ovarian cancer. Two years later my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. Cancer does not run in either side of the family, which caused me to wonder what increased their risk. I also wanted to know what I could do lower my risk.

The good news is that there is a lot we can all do to decrease our chances of getting cancer. What you eat, how active you are, and how much you weigh are things you can influence and improve on every single day of your life.

These 5 changes will help to decrease your risk of getting cancer. There is emerging research that they can also decrease your risk of a recurrence if you are a cancer survivor.

1. Maintain a healthy weight. This is one of the most important things you can do. Aim for a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 21 and 23. (This link will help you calculate your BMI.) That is easier said than done considering that over ⅔ of the population in the U.S. is either overweight or obese—but it is possible!

Cutting out calorie-dense foods such as sugary drinks, sweets, fast foods, and foods high in fat is a good place to start. For example, the Panda Express Two Entrée meal with double orange chicken and chow mein has 1,330 calories! For some people, that is how many calories they should have in the entire day. If you replace it with a large salad with lots of veggies with 1 tablespoon of salad dressing, a bowl of lentil soup, and a cup of strawberries, you would save over 900 calories.

2. Be physically active. Aim for 30 minutes, 5 days a week of some form of exercise you enjoy such as walking, running, hiking, swimming, or biking.

3. Eat mostly plant foods. Eat at least 3 pieces of fruit a day. Think of it as dessert after every meal. Eat as many veggies as you can. Aim for at least a few cups a day. In particular, go for the nonstarchy vegetables. Examples include kale, spinach, chard, romaine lettuce, baby greens, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cucumber, radishes, jicama, artichokes, onions, beets, celery, cauliflower, asparagus, hearts of palm, peppers (green, red, or yellow), sprouts, or sugar snap peas.

Also add beans, peas, and lentils to your diet. Choose whole grains instead of processed grains, such as oatmeal instead of corn flakes. Be adventurous and try things like quinoa or whole-wheat bulgur.

4. Avoid or limit red meat and totally avoid processed meats. Red meat includes beef, pork, and lamb. I know that the ads say pork is the “other white meat”, but remember that food manufacturers like to twist the truth to make a sale.

5. It is best to avoid alcohol. If you do drink, only have 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men. But if you have a history of breast cancer, having 3 to 4 drinks per week is associated with a 30-percent increased risk of breast cancer recurrence, so avoiding it may be your best option.

More Good News

If you do the hard work to make these changes, you will also have a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Good luck and remember, if I can do it, you can too!

Copyright © 2012 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.

The Truth About Agave Nectar

A few weeks ago I popped into my local Whole Foods Market because I wanted to buy an organic barbecue sauce. As I was looking at the different brands, it was interesting to see that agave nectar was in a few of them. I was chatting with one of the girls who worked there and she commented, “Well, agave is better than sugar.”

But is it really?

Somehow agave nectar has become the darling and healthy option for sugar lovers everywhere. It is in everything from breakfast cereals to soy ice cream. But it turns out that agave nectar may not be healthy after all because it’s really high in fructose.

Sugar is 50 percent fructose and 50 percent glucose. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is about 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose (although the amount of fructose in sugary drinks can be as high as 65 percent). Yet agave nectar can contain as much as 92 percent fructose!

So what’s wrong with fructose? Since fructose is metabolized in the liver, eating too much can cause fatty liver and high triglycerides. Fatty liver can negatively affect liver function. High triglycerides can increase your risk of heart disease. Fructose can also make insulin, the hormone that lowers blood sugar, less effective. Therefore, if you are choosing agave instead of other sweeteners for health reasons, you are missing the boat.

There are a few good points about agave nectar. One is that it’s sweeter than sugar. So you could use less and consume fewer calories with the same level of sweetness as sugar. Interestingly, I have seen many companies switch to agave, but I don’t see fewer grams of sugar on the label. Also, because it is high in fructose agave has a low glycemic index, which means it does not cause a big spike in your blood sugar.

Another good point about agave is that it is not genetically modified (see past post “What You Need to Know About GMOs”), at least not yet. High fructose corn syrup, because it comes from corn, is genetically modified. Sugar beets are now also genetically modified so most of the sugar you are eating is genetically modified as well.

The bottom line is agave nectar is not better for you than any other sweetener. And just like sugar, it will add calories, increase your desire for sweet foods, and help you gain weight. It doesn’t mean you should never eat it, but don’t kid yourself that it is somehow better than other sweeteners. All forms of sugar, including agave nectar, should be eaten in moderation.

Probably the best option is to have fruit for dessert or to add fruit to other foods for sweetness. For example, in place of adding agave nectar to your oatmeal, try adding blueberries or strawberries instead. Once your palate adapts to the less sweet taste of foods minus all the sugar, fruit will taste a lot sweeter.

Here is a frozen dessert recipe that hits that sweet spot without added sweeteners:

  • Peel and slice one really ripe banana and put it in the freezer.
  • Add the frozen banana to a blender or food processor with a little liquid such as rice or soy milk or even water
  • Add a teaspoon of vanilla (optional).
  • Blend till smooth and enjoy!

Do you have any ideas for incorporating more fruit into your diet in place of sugar and other sweeteners?

For more information on fructose, check out Dr. Lustig’s talk on YouTube called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” here.

Copyright © 2012 Carole Bartolotto, MA, RD. All rights reserved.