Coca-Cola Stopped Sponsoring the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Conflicts of Interest

 The American Dietetic Association (ADA) is the world’s largest association of nutrition professionals. They claim to be devoted to “improving the nation’s health.” They promote a series of Nutrition Fact Sheets. Who writes them? Industry sources pay $20,000 per fact sheet to the ADA and explicitly take part in writing the documents. The ADA then promotes them through its journal and on its website.

Some of these fact sheets are “What’s a Mom to Do: Healthy Eating Tips for Families” sponsored by Wendy’s; “Lamb: The Essence of Nutrient Rich Flavor,” sponsored by the Tri-Lamb Group; “Cocoa and Chocolate: Sweet News” sponsored by the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition; “Eggs: A Good Choice for Moms-to-Be” sponsored by the American Egg Board’s Egg Nutrition Center; “Adult Beverage Consumption: Making Responsible Drinking Choices” in connection with the Distilled Spirits Council; and “The Benefits of Chewing Gum” sponsored by the Wrigley Science Institute. For visuals, see Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Conflicts of Interest.

Did you know there was a Wrigley Science Institute?

In 2008, the ADA announced that the Coca-Cola Company had become an “ADA Partner” through its corporate relations sponsorship program. The ADA “provides partners a national platform via ADA events and programs with prominent access to key influencers, thought leaders and decision makers in the nutrition marketplace.” The ADA’s press release also pointed out that “the Coca-Cola Company will share their research findings with ADA members in forums such as professional meetings and scientific publications.” For example, did you know there are “No Harmful Effects of Different Coca-Cola Beverages on Rat Testicles?” Was that even a concern? Thou doth protest too much methinks…

When the American Academy of Pediatrics was called out on their proud new corporate relationship with Coke to support patient education on healthy eating, an executive vice-president of the Academy tried to quell protest by explaining that this alliance was not without precedent. The American Academy of Pediatrics has had relationships with Pepsi and McDonald’s for some time. This is reminiscent of similar types of relationships in the past, like doctors promoting cigarette smoking.

The fact that the Academy of Pediatrics was also collaborating with Pepsi and McDonald’s didn’t seem to placate the critics. So, the executive continued, noting that the American Dietetic Association has made a policy statement that “There are no good or bad foods.” Indeed, that’s the ADA’s official position, “classification of specific foods as good or bad is overly simplistic.”

One commentator asks, “Is this what [family doctors] have been reduced to…? To justify an unholy financial alliance we hide behind what others say and do and deny that there are actually unhealthy, ‘bad’ foods. I wonder how much money the ADA receives from the Coca-Cola Company and other food and beverage companies to have come up with this counter-intuitive ‘no good or bad foods’ philosophy?”

In 2012, the American Dietetic Association changed their name to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Did their policies change at all? A landmark report from one of my favorite industry watchdogs, Michele Simon, found that they continue to take millions of dollars in corporate sponsorship money every year from meat, processed junk, dairy, soda, and candy bar companies, and in return offer official educational seminars to teach dietitians what to say to their clients. So, when you hear the title “registered dietitian,” this is the group they’re forced to be registered through. Thankfully, there are also Dietitians for Professional Integrity.

After giving millions of dollars to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Coca Cola has apparently withdrawn sponsorship. It’s not enough to disclose conflicts of interest; we should strive to eliminate them in medical and nutrition research.

For more on the corrosive effect of money and politics in nutrition, see:

There are lots of evidence-based dietitians, such as Brenda DavisJeff Novick, and Julieanna Hever–not to mention our very own Joseph Gonzales!

-Michael Greger, M.D.

PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live year-in-review presentations Uprooting the Leading Causes of DeathMore Than an Apple a DayFrom Table to Able, and Food as Medicine.

Image Credit: Piotr Drabik / Flickr

  • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

    Kudos to Dietitians for Professional Integrity for sticking up for truth! I intend to submit my ‘Statement of Concern’ to their group, as a fellow dietitian fed up with industry sponsors! How can anyone take dietitians seriously if Big food funds our education sessions? The times have gotta change and this group lays the foundation so we can get there. Thanks Dr. Greger and Thanks DFPI!

    • Charzie

      And kudos to you Joseph and the others who put their integrity in front of profit! The old adage has never been truer, “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil”.

      • Esther

        The bible (1Timothy 6:10) sure was right about that truth! The problem we see playing out every day is profit being put before people. I live in the UK and recently starting noticing that the tomatoes in my supermarket were a little too perfectly red or “staged”, especially when compared to the rugged look of organic food which sometimes still has mud on it. I long to be able to just buy food that hasn’t been tampered with. But we need people in government, our policy makers who are supposed to be protecting us, to just do what’s right and call time on the license for food companies to keep tampering with our food., because it was good enough the way God created it. But when we start trying to play god, we create frankinstein, or in the modern world – cancer! Precisely because we are not God, and therefore do not have the wisdom, foresight or understanding to see far enough down the line, the consequences of our tampering and how each man-made chemical or substance interacts with the 1000s of others in any persons life.

  • Jean C

    Big Coca-Cola at the JDRFSD one walk last weekend in San Diego( funding research for type one diabetes)..large barrels of free Coca -Cola products. I did not drink any but it seemed to be a big success. The barrels were being refilled often.

    • SeedyCharacter

      It is beyond crazy making to have Coca-Cola present at anything related to diabetes. I hope you had time to send a letter letting them know your opinion on the matter.

  • Laloofah

    “Conflict of interest” is an understatement. “Blatant subterfuge” is more like it.

    • basehitz

      Nailed it. “Deception in order to conceal, escape, or evade” is the formal definition for what has become standard operating procedure for our bought off politicians and regulators.

      Fortunately, there are responsible people who give of their time and talent for the well being of others. Knowledge is power. We can’t be fooled by the propaganda if we take responsibility for ourselves.

      • Laloofah

        Couldn’t agree more! I greatly appreciate those responsible people you mention (several of whom are found right here, of course!) and all the time, knowledge, and expertise they devote to educate and empower others to take control of their own well-being.

  • Catherine J Frompovich

    This very serious dichotomy Dr Greger discusses is precisely what I was castigated about and ‘quackasized’ for pointing out to states’ licensing agencies in the 1980s when dietitians were fighting for licensure. According to the Quack Hunters, I was a ‘quack’ nutritionist. Boy! has the worm turned. Thanks to Dr Greger for jumping on the whole foods diet bandwagon. Can you imagine how much less juvenile diabetes, adult obesity, heart disease, etc. would be affecting humans IF the food industry and its shills, the dietitians of old, would have listened to nutrition science that those of us in the then so-called healthfood industry were promoting? Thanks for recognizing that we WERE correct, and welcome aboard the whole plant foods diet revolution. The next step is to get industrial chemicals out of agriculture, food processing, and expose Genetically Modified ‘phoods’ for what they truly are–the 1950s cigarette issue that doctors recommended.
    Can you believe that?

  • Heidi

    I knew that ADA was funded by some food industries but did not realize the extent of it. I am an RD, CDE (certified diabetes educator) with an MS in public health nutrition. My own practice is all about helping people remove processed unhealthy foods and animal products and replace them with unprocessed plant foods. I find this to be true of most of the RDs I know. I spend many hours reading the actual research from Google Scholar or Pubmed and do no take any direction from the Academy.
    The suggestion that all foods are ok comes from the idea that very small amounts of “bad foods” are not going to hurt someone if the quantity is limited. If a person eats candy once a week or once a month the effects are probably minimal. But, people with health problems are often not eating those foods in such small quantities and so the message for them has to be different. Some people have the same relationship with certain foods as someone does with a drug or alcohol and so they have to eliminate that food completely to prevent food binging.

    • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

      Thanks goodness for more RD’s like you, Heidi! You hit on some keys points and I couldn’t agree more. Keep up the good work! I am still a member of the Academy due to the amazing Dietetic Practice Groups, but I agree we need to read the research ourselves (all citations listed in the “sources cited” section on each video) and spread a true message of heath and well-bing for our clients.

      • Dominic

        Hey
        Joseph, It’s great that you and Heidi have expressed your dissatisfaction over
        the AND’s sponsorship policy. It’s
        important that people know that there are many registered dietitians that do
        not support this policy. I haven’t been an AND member for years, but If
        I was a member and was asked to vote, I’d vote to get rid of corporate sponsorship
        altogether.

        • SeedyCharacter

          You bring up a good point. Members can lobby their organizations in ways that non-members cannot. Joseph, is it possible to offer workshops at ADA conferences that discuss the politics of corporate sponsorships? In other professional groups, I’ve found those gatherings very useful in bringing together like-minded members, educating those who are unaware, and starting a movement to vote out leaders who are in bed with the corporate “partners.”

        • Joseph Gonzales R.D.

          So true. It’s very important know that you can be a dietitian and NOT affiliated with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Stealing a great paragraph from a RD who posted this online who I could not agree with more…

          “Turns out RDs are, in fact, properly trained to “use nutrition to properly prevent chronic disease”. As an RD … We are registered through the Commission on Dietetic Registration, which is independent of AND. We do not have to be a member of AND to be an RD. I wish that AND had initiated the severing of this relationship. But, the Academy just can’t seem to get things together. They have definitely done a lot of damage to the RD credential in the past couple years. That’s unfortunate considering the amount of work required to become an RD and maintain the credential.”

          Thanks for the clarification, Dominic.

          • ron

            We all know where the big money in the food and beverage industry goes. The Food Babe has done a fine job of getting results and needs our support to get the crap out of anything we consume.

  • Bethany

    This is why I decided not to become a dietitian – the facts I was told to memorize did not seem established or consistent between different professors. We had entire meal plan assignments based on McDonald’s menu items and spent more time debunking fad diets than talking about the scientific basis for what we were learning. It did not work for me, though I liked and respected many of my professors.

  • Craig

    thanks for your work. i have been paleo for three years. but my ldl and cholesterol went through the roof. i have always listened to your blog because i welcome cognitive dissonance and the truth, though i appreciated the 30 lb weight loss and seeming improvement from my paleo diet. my growing concern over my lab results, however, has caused me to reduce my meat consumption. i will try to change enough to get my labs better, and i’ll try to assure that i can remain anabolic in my weight training. thanks for your hard work. you make an important contribution. Dr. Castanet at http://www.backstrong.net

  • Craig

    mary lou henner isn’t just a looker. she’s fantastic.

  • Sebastian Tristan

    Lots of respect to those who choose integrity over money.

  • gtrdoc911

    Just got back from Peru and Ecuador. Saw many one to five year old children smiling with their teeth bombed out and Inka Cola in their hands. Hopefully one day will come when EVERYONE recognizes soft drinks for the utter garbage that they are.

  • Patricia Murphy

    ‘No good or bad foods’? For God’s sake……………….

  • peseta11

    “Thou doth protest too much methinks…”
    for shame! It’s Thou dost… (probably you were echoing “The lady doth protest…” third person.
    But thanks for the reminder about corporate duplicity.

  • Audrey Rawls

    This isn’t surprising with how Mega Corporations have infiltrated 90% of everything in America. As for hearing that Nutritionists and Dietitians have been going to Ed Seminars etc. sponsored by the likes of Coke Cola and McDonads leaves a very bad taste in my mouth. So did the documentary I watched where Nestle & Pepsi as well Coke Cola were even in very rural areas and the Nestle employees were taught that the bad foods were good for you! Yep, they even had Nutrition Carts by Nestle with all the good chocolate products, cookies, chocolate milk candy etc. It showed that the new PROFIT Centers were Asia, South America & Africa. The problem is that now that the majority of Americans that consume their products all the soda, fast food, processed foods, fried foods, etc. thus the American Market shows no signs of growth have moved in and Countries that used to have great health are now having the Obesity, Diabetes, Heart, etc. etc.etc. that a large if not a Majority of Americans suffer with and these Countries are now trying to put programs in place such as learning Nutrition and healthy eating as well as exercise venues. This is a messed up World, the food makes us sick for profit, then Big Pharma feeds us a handful of pills supposedly to make us well, for Profit, I am ready to go back to the days when we ate real food from real farms and sodas were a monthly treat as were sweets and fruits were the snacks and we hardly ever saw the Doctor cause we didn’t get sick. We are seeing more of this with more people demanding organic foods and voting with their wallets at stores thanks to monster Monsanto and all the No to GMOS groups getting the word out. The public is slowly learning to read labels, are learning about processed food and there are more groups, companies, organizations such as this promoting a more plant based diet which is helping people learn what’s good for their bodies. I went off topic in a sense but it still concerns what is happening to our world, such as serving Coke at a seminar on diabetes, that’s just nuts! We are in need of Nutritionalists and Dieticians that are Professionally trained and Registered now more than ever before in the history of our World!!! Getting the sponsorship away from the Coke Colas and sponsored by groups like an Organic Association or a Corporation that wants to promote healthy lifestyles for its employees for better productivity, less absences and of course lower insurance costs. Such as Verizon sponsors the Diabetes Seminar and Water is available on the tables or the break station, no bottles as most are Nestle bottled and we don’t need to add to the destruction of our environment with more plastic floating islands in our Oceans. Why can’t this type of sponsorship happen, we now it can be just have to hustle for these and say No to the madness of letting food companies coming to you with strings attached.
    Thanks for all the work this site does!!!

  • Alex Kluger

    I have a serious professional and ethical dilemma. I am over halfway to achieving my degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, on the path to becoming a Registered Dietitian. Over the past two months, I have immersed myself in the science of plant-based nutrition (through curtesy of this wonderful website and your book, How Not To Die), as well as other books, documentaries, and videos that refute the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ recommendations for meat, dairy and eggs, as well as expose the strategic lying, hidden ties, and the abusing economic power that these industries have. I am now 100% plant-based/vegan for health and ethical reasons, and I do not feel comfortable encouraging the ADA’s typical reccomendations of these harmful foods, and I do not support their production of “scientific” journal articles funded by the meat/dairy/egg/other processed food industries. While I know that every individual must have a certain degree of willingness to educate themselves (or listen to the advice I intend to give) on these issues and will ultimately make the decision on their own, I am weary of my future profession, and wonder if I will be able to advocate a plant-based diet to clients while maintaining my degree and certification, and cliental.

    Please, any and all advice would be much appreciated. Thank you for opening my eyes to the real world we live in.

    • Thea

      Alex Kluger: I was hoping and hoping that an experienced, plant-based RD who had been through this before would reply to you. I was touched by your post and think it deserves several replies. In the absence of a reply from some RDs, allow me (a lay person) to share some thoughts with you.
      .
      In 2009, the ADA wrote a position paper on vegetarian diets. Here is a key quote: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.” I have seen the paper quoted many times in various places. I just found a link to the .pdf in a general search, but I can’t figure out how to get you the link. Hopefully you can find the paper with this information if you are interested.
      .
      Here’s my point: Whatever you are learning in school, it does not sound like it is reflective of the official position of the ADA. Or perhaps, it might be more accurate to say that your school is leaving out some vital information. It seems to me that you can go forward with the information you have learned on this website and others without being in conflict with the ADA.
      .
      Point 2: In fact, there are some very famous plant-based RDs who are making a huge difference in this world, and they still label themselves as RDs. Brenda Davis is an RD who helped craft the position statement I copied for you above. She has participated in medical nutrition research and written several books, one of which Dr. Greger refer’s people to near the end of How Not To Die: Becoming Vegan. Brenda Davis and her co-author Vesanto Melina (who is also an RD) have even done a guest blog on this site. These people are changing lives with their work. I heard Brenda Davis speak at a conference in the Northwest about 6 years ago and it helped give me the confidence to go vegan.
      .
      Meanwhile, another shining star RD, Jeff Novick, has also had a great influence over a great many people. His talks, articles, and cooking DVDs have helped people to eat healthy and yummy. His Fast Food DVD gave me some great ideas that I use to this day. I don’t know as much about Jack Norris, but he is an often quoted RD here on NutritionFacts. He co-authored a book called Vegan For Life with yet another RD, Virginia Messina. My point in bringing up all these people is: There are plant-based RDs who have paved the way for you. You can use their careers as role models, knowing that they found a way to reconcile what the ADA stands for with what they stand for. You might also consider trying to talk specifically with one of these people.
      .
      And here’s my final point: We need you. People pay a lot of attention to what RDs say. People go to RDs for help. You can be one of the good guys. And you might be able to help change the ADA from the inside. How much do RDs affect the world? Here’s an example from my own life: People where I work know that I’m vegan. I happen to work with a woman who runs a kitchen providing food for hundreds of needy people in our community. The organization tries to provide healthy food. But what is healthy? This woman once said to me something like, “You know, I have been working with RDs [as consultants for our agency] for years. Every single RD has said that meat, dairy and eggs are good for you. There is no food category that is bad for you in moderation.” While my misguided co-worker has been listening to the wrong people, here’s the point: What those RDs said to her made a huge difference in what foods she considers to be healthy and thus what is being fed to hundreds of people. If you become an RD and do not flinch in telling people the truth, you too could have an impact that goes way beyond what you might think. If you had been one of the RDs my co-worker spoke to over the years, maybe she would have a better understanding today of what healthy food is. Please, we need you. I can’t say it enough.
      .
      The Bottom Line: I’m not saying the ADA is all roses. I understand that the conflict you are talking about is a real issue. What I’m hoping my post will do is give you a path to move forward that allows you to benefit from your education and certification while still being true to your ethics and desire to help people.
      .
      I hope this helps!