Is the World’s Largest Advisor on Nutrition Policy Unduly Influenced by Its Corporate Donors?

by | Feb 20, 2023 | Nutrition

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The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics makes nutrition recommendations, but with sponsorships from unhealthy food producers, can their advice be trusted?

According to its website, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) “offers information on nutrition and health, from meal planning and prep to choices that can help prevent or manage health conditions and more.” The organization represents “over 112,000 credentialed practitioners: registered dietitian nutritionists; nutrition and dietetics technicians, registered; and other professionals and students.” 

AND, along with its fundraising arm, the AND Foundation (ANDF), have received millions in annual sponsorship funding from major food corporations. On the surface, this sounds like a logical arrangement. But researchers examining the relationships between AND and its corporate sponsors have looked deeper. 

According to a recent article in the Washington Post, 

Few institutions have as much influence on the public’s eating habits as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which helps shape national food policy and trains thousands of dietitians who help people decide what to eat.

But newly released documents show that the academy has a long history of financial ties to big food companies, including many that sell and market ultra-processed foods that have been linked to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.

The study mentioned in the article was carried out by the public interest group U.S. Right to Know (USRTK), based on tens of thousands of pages contained through Freedom of Information requests.  

As the study states: 

“Although the AND’s relationship with the food and beverage industry has been described before, little is known about its relationship with other unhealthy commodity industries as well as the dynamics and evolution of such relationships.” 

When USRTK researchers dug into the documents they obtained in the latter part of 2020, key facts emerged:  

  1. There is a revolving door between AND’s Board of Directors and affiliated corporations and, 
  2. AND and ANDF also hold investments in these corporations.

Additionally, researchers found that some sponsoring corporations “financed early career nutritionists and their research; interfered with AND position papers on key nutrition related topics and themes and led to the shaping of internal policies that benefit corporate partners.”  

It’s important to note that the study turned up no reason for concern regarding the credibility of the advice and professional services provided by AND’s many members. It does, however, underline the reality that food is big business, and that health-conscious consumers benefit from food purchasing decisions based on an understanding of the effects of those foods on their bodies. 

Fundamentals of Health Alliance

Fundamentals of Health Alliance

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The Fundamentals of Health Alliance works to publish useful and reliable information about nutrition and health. Their mission is to empower readers to be informed with honest, non-biased information about food, nutrition and the vital components of health.

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