Seductive Supplements: Who do I trust? Part 1

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You know how it goes. You show up to the “health section” of a health food store or supplement department. Oftentimes an eager but nonaggressive person wearing a “nutrition expert” badge will sidle up to you with a warm and compassionate smile. “Can I help you?” she asks, her bright skin and smile seeming luminescent in the industrial light….

(Blog previously posted on Nutrivise.tumblr.com!)

$537 later, you are leaving the store with everything from black cohosh oil to zinc suppositories, and you are convinced that within hours you will soon become the ageless, vivacious, productive beast you always knew you could be.

Your cardiovascular strength will make other hearts skip beats of shame, your eyelashes will become thick paintbrushes that can practically exfoliate your lover’s cheeks, and your new glowing physique will have agencies ripping out eyeballs to represent you on the cover of “Ridiculously In-Shape” magazine.  You cast a sad, yet smug, smile to the poor fools in line at the pharmacy as you lug your suitcase full of bottles towards your car, wondering how anyone could put such unnatural chemicals in their body when they could be like you and take “all natural” products to claim your potential.

OK, so maybe that’s a teensy overblown. But many important problems are highlighted here, and impending disappointment is the least of them. Let’s start off with the confusion of “nutritionist” vs “dietitian.”  “Nutrition experts” and nutritionists are not always dietitians. My dog can call herself a nutritionist (and she’s actually accompanied me to many seminars, so she’s got some education to back that up!).

My dog:

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A registered dietitian, however, is a food and nutrition expert who went to an accredited school (3 years full-time if you want a Masters, too!); learned extensive biochemistry, physiology and pathophysiology, and statistical methods; worked a minimum of 900 hours at a clinical facility (often unpaid!); passed a standardized national exam; and is required to continually stay abreast on current trends and research to maintain their licensed title. Some registered dietitians may call themselves nutritionists just because the public seems to relate to that title better. But not all nutritionists are RDs (my dog being a prime example).

When it comes to nutrition questions, you may say “why can’t I ask my Dr.?”  Many medical schools offer at most one nutrition course online for their students….which makes sense, because I’d much rather my urologist spend time in the areas where I am seeking her expertise.  Dietitians are experts in their field of nutritional science and (hopefully most of them) spend their time reading and evaluating peer-reviewed research.  So, if you would like an expert to siphon through the trends (“Carbs kill kittens!”) and stories (“Frank says he lost 20 pounds when he started taking bromelain pills!”) and point to objective evidence, a good place to start is finding a registered dietitian. http://www.eatright.org/iframe/findrd.aspx.

Stay tuned to hear about the next problem with this suitcase situ…

Marily O

MS, RD, PhD

PS-

I lied. That is not my dog. She hates carrots. And is slightly emotionally codependent. This is my dog.

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