The ADA Needs to Change More than just its Name


We are in San Diego this weekend, for the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE), the annual conference bringing in 7000 dietitians for 4 days of networking, education, and new product introductions.

The opening session yesterday afternoon, American Dietetic Association (ADA) President Sylvia Escott-Stump announced that going forward the new name of the organization will be the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Don’t take the name change lightly, it’s been in use for 90 years, since World War 1. Here is the rationale:

“The name Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics promotes the strong science background and academic expertise of our members, primarily registered dietitians. Nutrition science underpins wellness, prevention and treatment,” she said.

“An academy is ‘a society of learned persons organized to advance science.’ This term describes our organization and immediately emphasizes the educational strength of our advice and expertise.”

“By adding nutrition to our name, we communicate our capacity for translating nutrition science into healthier lifestyles for everyone. Keeping dietetics supports our history as a food and science-based profession. Thus, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics quickly and accurately communicates our identity—who we are and what we do,” Escott-Stump said.

“Whether planning nutritious meals for children in day-care centers or schools, teaching individuals with diabetes about managing their blood sugar or saving lives with complex nutritional interventions after surgery, registered dietitians are the best qualified providers. The name change communicates that we are the nutrition experts,” she said.

There is definitely a logic in here, but in random discussions we had with 20 dietitians in the hours since the announcement, the response was overwhelmingly…meh. They don’t think these changes will have any impact.

Some other ideas we have heard for a name change:

American Academy of…  (patriotism)

Academy of Food and Nutrition (drop the Diet word from the name, as it has a negative connotation)

Many dietitians are not very happy with the way their profession is perceived by the public, so in that sense a rebranding is necessary. And a name change is certainly part of that, in some cases. Apple Computer changes their name to Apple Inc when the iPod and iPhone started to take off. But for the ADA to be relevant and successful in the coming decades, has to do much more than change its name.

Here are Fooducate’s suggestions:

1. Drop the corporate sponsors. It will instantly put the organization at a higher level of trust in consumer minds. Since only 10% of the ADA’s budget comes from corporate sponsors, this is not going to break the organization.

2. Target Consumers. The ADA – excuse us, the AND – is not where consumers turn to for nutrition information. Hungry-Girl, Men’s Health, and LiveStrong get much more media attention, website visits, facebook fans, and twitter followers than eatright.org. Heck, even this blog gets more trafic from consumers than the ADA’s website eatright.org. Yes, the ADA was formed to service its 70,000 members. But there is so much more it can do by a total rethink of its outreach to consumers.

Get Social, get mobile!

Create viral youtube videos!

Harness all the RDs that are currently tweeting and blogging and bring them under your roof. (Look at Glam media or the Nutrition Blog Network)

Do it now.

3. Review the science. Many consumers, Fooducate readers included, have taken issue with some of the “evidence based” science which is the core to every recommendation coming from the organization. The most irritating examples are the seal of approval for foods with artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and an assortment of other questionable ingredients.

True, most studies did not find them to cause health issues, but most studies also did not find them to be 100% healthy. It’s just that the science is too complicated to reach conclusions with 100% certainty. As parents, we don’t want to feed our kids franken-foods and then 20 years later learn that, oops, science made a mistake. If you think this is crazy, think about the changes in recommendations over the years for margarine, trans-fats, and saccharine.

In any case, we hope the AND heeds our advice, and to its many wonderful members we wish success in their important mission.

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  • Regina

    Your 3rd suggestion, re: “review the science” in which you promptly flip to bashing “evidence-based science” in favor of what?…belief-based faux science, apparently.

    When science does not corroborate ugly populist notions of “franken-food”  and “questionable ingredients” and “toxic substances” the smart money goes with science any day over hucksters like Dr. Oz, for example.

    ADA/AND should stick to professional education and certification. Sponsors aren’t a problem so much as pressure from ridiculous activists with negative agendas. Money is traceable, stupidity not so much.

    I’ll offer a 4th suggestion: ADA/AND needs to review its members’ certifications and boot out the phonies, quacks and charlatans who swell their ranks. A good, thorough house cleaning would do more than anything else to elevate the public perception and trust in the organization.

    • Marissa

      Hi Regina,

      I’m just curious as to what makes an ADA member a quack or phony? Those who promote the ADA’s recommendations or those offering an alternative perspective (Paleo, Weston A. Price, etc)? Thanks!

    • ANH-USA

      “money is traceable” not when the info come from the ADA.  They refuse to disclose how much they receive from their corporate sponsors and for what purposes, saying only, they receive “more than $10k from Coca-Cola, Hersheys, etc”  ADA’s lack of transparency has even earned itself an investigation by Congress. http://grassley.senate.gov/news/Article.cfm?customel_dataPageID_1502=34350.  The public has a right to be concerned.  Unless the ADA/AND ends its addiction to junk food money they’ll soon look like those doctors smoking in cigarette ads from the 50′s.

      • Joninacelia

        Regina have you ever stopped and asked yourself why so many other countries don’t allow things like GMO’s, antibiotics and hormones in meat production, some food colorings, etc. It is because there are other ways to review science and nutritional studies. I think what the author was trying to point out was that a lot of other countries (like the entire European Union) which does not approve new organisms as food products unless they are proved study after study as safe. Unlike the US, who runs a study and if nothing comes up it is approved for general public. Now, it does not take Einstein to figure out that science and evidence changes all the time and we often find out that many things that we thought were safe, were actually quite harmful. You better do your homework Regina before you step up to these debates. 

    • ANH-USA

      “money is traceable” not when the info come from the ADA.  They refuse to disclose how much they receive from their corporate sponsors and for what purposes, saying only, they receive “more than $10k from Coca-Cola, Hersheys, etc”  ADA’s lack of transparency has even earned itself an investigation by Congress. http://grassley.senate.gov/news/Article.cfm?customel_dataPageID_1502=34350.  The public has a right to be concerned.  Unless the ADA/AND ends its addiction to junk food money they’ll soon look like those doctors smoking in cigarette ads from the 50′s.

    • Joninacelia

      Regina have you ever stopped and asked yourself why so many other countries don’t allow things like GMO’s, antibiotics and hormones in meat production, some food colorings, etc. It is because there are other ways to review science and nutritional studies. I think what the author was trying to point out was that a lot of other countries (like the entire European Union) which does not approve new organisms as food products unless they are proved study after study as safe. Unlike the US, who runs a study and if nothing comes up it is approved for general public. Now, it does not take Einstein to figure out that science and evidence changes all the time and we often find out that many things that we thought were safe, were actually quite harmful. You better do your homework Regina before you step up to these debates.

    • Lindsay

      Totally agree with Regina. I get so sick of hearing my clients ask me if something like lemon and onions mixed together will help her lose weight as it may change the pH of her blood. In my head I’m thinking, WHERE DID YOU HEAR THIS. We stick with science and research and not the phonies. I do agree with the writer. I find it embarrassing that one of our doctors wrote me an email to ask why we promote such things.

  • Daniel

    Interesting to note that this comes at a time where another nutrition organization, the Society for Nutrition Education, has seriously considered a name change to the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior
    http://www.prlog.org/11597136-society-for-nutrition-education-considers-name-change-to-reinforce-healthful-behaviors.html

  • Kwshadix

    Perhaps the ADA needs to be more transparent in it’s communication for the the rationale behind the name change. While I’m not the one to elaborate on it, people deserve to know the candid truth. It’s actually llogical.

    And while we’d all love to be sponsor free I doubt that the membership would want to pay the dues needed to run a non sponsor subsidized association.

    Why not write a solutions based reply to the issues instead of the same ole same ole criticisms? If we’d all focus on solutions instead if complaining all the time maybe we’d be closer the solving many of the delimmas facing our profession.

  • Kwshadix

    Perhaps the ADA needs to be more transparent in it’s communication for the the rationale behind the name change. While I’m not the one to elaborate on it, people deserve to know the candid truth. It’s actually llogical.

    And while we’d all love to be sponsor free I doubt that the membership would want to pay the dues needed to run a non sponsor subsidized association.

    Why not write a solutions based reply to the issues instead of the same ole same ole criticisms? If we’d all focus on solutions instead if complaining all the time maybe we’d be closer the solving many of the delimmas facing our profession.

  • http://www.thefrugaldietitian.com Nancy – The Frugal Dietitian

    I really like Fooducate but personally I think the below comment was
    lacking any science backing…we could say that about anything. You are basically saying science is useless. 

    “The most irritating examples are the seal of approval for foods with
    artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and an assortment of other
    questionable ingredients.
    True, most studies did not find them to cause health issues, but most
    studies also did not find them to be 100% healthy. It’s just that the
    science is too complicated to reach conclusions with 100% certainty. As
    parents, we don’t want to feed our kids franken-foods and then 20 years
    later learn that, oops, science made a mistake.”

  • Lauri

    I 100% agree with all of your suggestions and thoughts regarding the ADA/AND. I actually did not renew my membership with the ADA this year because I am so frustrated with the corporate sponsorships and lack of recognition the ADA receives and gives to its members. I WANT to be a part of the ADA/AND and support my organization, but I DO NOT want to associate with an organization that is supported by Cornsugar.com or Hershey’s. I chose not to attend the SCDA (S. Carolina Dietetic Association) annual meeting this year because it was sponsored by Cornsugar.com. Yeah, Yeah, its the same as sugar, blah, blah. I think it sends a mixed message to the public when we have sponsorships like this. And I don’t want to be a part of an organization that is known for supporting Taco Bell and cornsugar (Why can’t we get a sponsorship from whole foods, kashi, stoneyfield or any of the other hundreds of companies that are making a stand against processed/frankenfood??) I *hope* that the ADA/AND will make some changes over the coming year(s) and I hope to rejoin soon, as a PROUD member.

  • Jim Cooper

    “Many consumers, Fooducate readers included, have taken issue with some of the ‘evidence based’ science which is the core to every recommendation coming from the organization.”
    So you would prefer raw innuendo to actual science? How silly!

  • Lauren

    I so agree. I remember all my suspicions about the ADA confirmed (and worse) when I researched the post for you here. I do like the new name but again- why did I read about it here shouldn’t the ADA be telling me and everyone about it not just you FNCE folks. 

  • Nurture Nutrition

    If the ADA cannot be run without taking sponsorships from companies that help destroy the health of America, then they should shut down.  Because then they are (and have been) doing harm under the guise of expert advice. 

    • http://gingerjens.blogspot.com GingerJen

      We are all operating under direction/nutrient guidelines published by the Institute of Medicine an organization of volunteer doctors and business people who self appoint new members. They may be experts in their own fields but a volunteer group can not be as effective as a paid team of physiologists and clinical nutritionists and biochemists and cell microbiologists and that is what we need to recalculate just what it takes to maintain health – let alone restore it once malfunction has started. Some of the nutrient guidelines are still based on the initial research from the 30′s and 40′s. No one has put money into how to feed a human . . . AND people are starting to notice.

  • AZ food and wine girl

    Amen, as a Dietitian I am embarrassed that we get money from sponsors that contribute to the ill health and obesity that is plaguing our country.  A new name is not going to change that.  I now usually introduce myself as a Nutritionist.

    • Joninacelia

      Completely agree! It is embarrassing and completely shameful of the ADA to put their own Dietitians in this uncomfortable place in the public eyes. As an organization they are not living up to the standards that they should be and have lost a lot of credibility in my eyes.

  • Yvette

    Totally agree with everything you mention. My experience with dieticians is that they’re living in the 80s – they nutrition advice seems to be antiquated in my opinion.  Another great, hip site that states your point is http://www.healthybitchdaily.com.  This is directionally where these guys need to go!

    • http://gingerjens.blogspot.com GingerJen

      great link, I love her Hemp protein article, 9-27-11, but I think that I would rather be a healthy witch than a healthy bitch or maybe just a dietitian with health issues in remission. Oh I just got it – she is giving us a daily bitch about healthy topics . . . LOL . . . and very nicely formatted too.

  • Jeojen

    not really related to this article, by why is there rarely anything positive posted on this site?  i find it hard to believe that every food, manufacturer, organization, etc are trying to pull one over on consumers or is doing a bad job.  just a thought.

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Fooducate

      Excellent point Jeojen. 

      We could write about the virtues of tomatoes and lettuce on the blog, but most people already know that they are healthy. What folks don’t always realize is how processed foods marketed as healthy are often time not. 

      That’s how I was duped a few years ago into buying yogurt with artificial colors. So what we try to do here is help people read beyond the marketing hype. 

      Unfortunately that means a lot of bad news. But not always. Today’s post (10/5/2011) talked about a decent prepared soup product. And we offer healthy recipe ideas.

      Hope this helps,
      -Hemi

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  • Joninacelia

    This is a great article and I am so thrilled that finally people are taking notice. I have been a Registered Dietitian since 2007 and have been more then frustrated with the ADA to the point that I sometimes regret having gone the route to become a Dietitian and wish I would have done a training to become a holistic nutritionist. The ADA needs to know that the organization has not only lost credibility with the general public but with the Dietitians themselves. 

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  • Deborah

    ADA is no different than any other organization that is void of ethical, honest, and just practices and people. They are similiar to Big Pharma, Big Government, Big Greed and Big Elitists. But the fault is our own. We have become lazy, self aborbed, and greedy. We have given up our power.  In order to change big organizations like these, the change starts with the individual.

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