By Dr. Mercola
Since its inception in 1928, the American Society for Nutrition (ASN)1 has become the most widely known academic institution in the field of nutrition, publishing three academic journals, including the well-respected American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
As a result, you’d expect the ASN’s advice to be on solid ground. Alas, as noted in a June 2015 report2 by Michele Simon, “The ASN has many problematic ties with the food and beverage industry.”
These ties can “taint scientific objectivity, negatively impact the organization’s policy recommendations, and result in industry-friendly research and messaging that is shared with nutrition professionals and the general public alike,” she adds.
According to Michele:
“Obesity researcher David Allison wins the prize for the most conflicts: PepsiCo, the Sugar Association, World Sugar Research Organization, Red Bull, Kellogg, Mars, Campbell Soup, and Dr. Pepper Snapple.
Perhaps most troubling, Allison serves on the editorial board of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ASN’s flagship publication.
While his conflicts are disclosed, having Allison in such a critical gatekeeper role demonstrates how industry can potentially influence even the science that gets published.”
Michele Simon has practiced public health law for nearly 20 years, fighting corporate tactics that deceive and manipulate you about health.
The featured interview with her was done in 2013, following her expose’ on the junk food industry’s ties to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and its insidious influence over registered dieticians (RDs).
In her latest report,3,4 “Nutrition Scientists on the Take from Big Food—Has the American Society for Nutrition Lost All Credibility?”, Michele reveals the disturbing ties between American Society for Nutrition (ASN) — a premier source of nutritional science — and the primary purveyors of obesity and chronic ill health.
Primary Purveyors of Obesity and Chronic Disease Sponsor Nutrition Science and Public Education
The ASN is commonly viewed as an independent and science-based source of nutritional information, but how independent can it really be when it is sponsored by Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Monsanto, and the Sugar Association, just to mention a few?
In all, the ASN is sponsored by 30 different companies, each of which pays $10,000 a year in return for “print and online exposure, annual meeting benefits, and first choice to sponsor educational sessions, grants, awards, and other opportunities as they arise.”
As noted by Michele:
“In other words, food, beverage, supplement, biotech, and pharmaceutical industry leaders are able to purchase cozy relationships with the nation’s top nutrition researchers.”
Junk food purveyors gain even more influence by sponsoring educational sessions at various conferences and annual meetings, and featuring speakers that represent the industry.
Some of these relationships are obvious, while others are less so, obscured as it were by affiliations with various industry front groups.
Why Is ASN Promoting Processed Foods?
As noted in Michele’s report, the ASN’s Public Information Committee was formed to “promote ASN as the premier source of sound nutrition science information to the media and public.”
Objective interpretation of nutrition science, transparency, and nutrition literacy are three values the committee claims to uphold, yet many of the ASN’s recommendations have the junk food industry’s fingerprints all over it…
For example, in April 2014, the ASN published a scientific statement titled “Processed Foods: Contributions to Nutrition.” This is an abomination to the primary health directive which is to avoid processed foods and eat REAL food.
However, the ASN claims that processing does not necessarily result in a nutritionally inferior product, adding that processed foods can address the obesity epidemic through the use of artificial sweeteners, nanotechnology, and flavor chemistry.
The report also foolishly claims that there are “no differences” between industrial food processing and processing of food in your own kitchen — noting that cleaning and peeling are types of food “processing” as well — significantly downplaying the very real effects industrial processing has on the quality of the food.
They fail to mention the thousands of artificial chemicals added that have been approved by industry as GRAS and never been tested for safety. These chemicals are added during processing, and then to make the food palatable once processed, something that does NOT happen in your kitchen!
Moreover, the ASN report claims that descriptions, such as “minimally processed” and “ultra-processed”, are “value-laden terms” that fail to characterize foods in a helpful manner. As noted by Michele:
“This defense of processed foods from a nutrition organization makes sense considering ASN’s sustaining partners, all of whom have a financial stake in getting Americans to purchase processed foods – whether it’s Kellogg’s Pop Tarts, General Mills’ Cookie Crisp Cereal, PepsiCo’s Doritos, or McDonald’s chicken nuggets.”
ASN Doesn’t Believe in Warning You About Added Sugars
The ASN has also taken a firm stand against the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) proposal to list “added sugar” on the Nutrition Facts label of processed foods, stating that:
“[A] lack of consensus remains in the scientific evidence on the health effects of added sugars alone versus sugars as a whole,” and that “The inclusion of added sugars on the label may confuse consumers and create the perception that naturally occurring sugars are somehow more beneficial because they are ‘natural’ and do not have health effects similar to added sugars.”
This is a position you’d expect from the sugar industry, and not surprisingly, the Sugar Association is one of the ASN’s sponsors.
As noted by Michele, “Naturally occurring sugars come bundled with nutrients, whereas added sugar only contributes calories, with zero nutrition. In that sense, naturally occurring sugars (consumed within whole foods) are more beneficial. This is basic nutrition science, and it is why eating an apple or peach is vastly different from eating candy.”
As the premier organization for nutritional science, the ASN’s outdated stance on sugars and fats is suspicious to say the least, and its defense of highly processed junk food is downright unconscionable, considering the overwhelming scientific evidence linking a processed food diet to metabolic dysfunction, obesity, and chronic disease.
There Is a FAR Better Alternative to ASN
Thankfully, we don’t have to rely on organizations like the American Society of Nutrition that is paid off by the junk food industry to promote processed foods. One of the best organizations out there is the American College of Nutrition and they have not sold out to industry. They are committed to teaching authentic health principles that address the cause of disease. I have been a fellow of this organization for a number of years now.
Later this month, I will be interviewing Michael Stroka, who is the president of the organization and hopefully will air the interview before the fall. We plan on reviewing the teaching programs they have in place and also the ability to certify individuals who understand the type of nutrition that I discuss on this site. Interestingly, I treated Michael as a patient many years ago, and he was so excited to regain his health that he changed careers and now heads this far better alternative to ASN.
Sugary Drinks Responsible for 184,000 Deaths Each Year
I’ve written extensively on the research linking processed foods and sugary beverages to poor health. Most recently, a team of investigators set out to estimate the global death toll attributed to sugary beverages, concluding that sodas and other sweetened drinks likely cause at least 184,000 premature deaths each year 5,6,7,8 primarily by fueling chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
According to senior author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, substantially reducing or eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet should be a “global priority,” noting:“This is not complicated. There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year.”
The American Beverage Association countered the findings saying that, “The study does not show that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages causes chronic diseases,” completely ignoring the fact that how sugar and fructose causes chronic disease has already been established by other studies. For example, in one clinical trial, test subjects who consumed high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) developed higher risk factors for cardiovascular disease in just two weeks.
Another paper9 published in JAMA Internal Medicine last year looked at consumption of added sugar over two decades, as a percentage of total calories, concluding that it significantly contributed to cardiovascular deaths. People who consumed 30 percent of their daily calories as added sugar (like many teenagers are) had a four-fold greater risk of dying from heart disease.
Considering how much refined sugar and processed fructose children are now consuming, the impact on mortality statistics will only get worse as years to by— unless a significant change in diet takes place. Disturbingly, it’s the very change needed that the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) is actively counteracting with its support of processed foods and beverages.
Data from a recent report by the UK’s Health and Social Care Information Center reveals that one-quarter of children entering primary school are overweight or obese, and by the time they leave, that ratio rises to one-third. Dr Colin Michie of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health told the BBC:10
“With this cohort of enormous children, if not obese children, coming through to adulthood, we are facing an enormous problem for those delivering clinical care.”
Artificial Ingredients — Another Health Hazard That Cannot Be Ignored
It’s important to realize that high-sugar content is not the only hazard of processed foods and beverages. Artificial ingredients also contribute to obesity and chronic disease. Artificial sweeteners, for example, have overwhelmingly been shown to promote weight gain rather than curb it.
Recent research11 also suggests that an additive used in some soft drinks, including Hawaiian Punch and Fanta, can increase your risk of weight gain by altering how your body responds to calories. Remember that these ingredients were approved by the industry as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) and NEVER tested for human safety.
According to Environmental Health News:12
“The chemical is used as a laxative and in sodas to help ingredients mix properly. It’s also a major ingredient in Corexit, the dispersant applied by the millions of gallons in the Gulf of Mexico during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. But the chemical, dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, or DOSS, is a likely member of a family of chemicals contributing to obesity, researchers say in a study published today in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal…
Temkin and colleagues exposed mouse and human cells to different oil dispersant mixtures. DOSS increased genes associated with fat cells and activated receptors that spur the process of non-mature fat cells turning into mature fat cells. ‘That a chemical causes more fat cells is concerning,’ Blumberg said… That the chemical has been on the market for decades but is only now seen as possibly problematic offers further indictment of an inadequate federal chemical testing regime…”
Unreasonable Corporate Growth Expectations Corrupt Nutritional Science and Public Health Recommendations
Zoë Harcombe’s excellent book, The Obesity Epidemic,13 succinctly discusses how unreasonable expectations of corporate growth more or less automatically generate conflicts of interest, noting that: “The fact that real growth can never be sustained seems to have been overlooked by financial markets and investors.”
Indeed, it is the food manufacturers’ responsibility to share holders and their own bottom line that has led to a system where scientific truth has been placed on the backburner. Moreover, processed food companies rely on public health advice to be in agreement with their offerings — anything else would be devastating to their bottom line. And if such advice is short in the offing, the industry will resort to measures to protect its place as purveyors of “healthy nutritious food,” opposed to the truth, which is that a processed food diet will hasten death…
One solution that places the junk food industry in the driver’s seat is to infiltrate nutritional organizations such as the ASN. Better yet, by restricting the “legal” dissemination of dietary advice to one national organization, the processed food industry can even more effectively secure its own future, and that’s exactly what we have with the US Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the credentialing agency for the American Dietetic Association.
Most states in the US (46 out of 50) have passed laws to regulate who is legally allowed to provide nutritional advice, restricting this “right” to registered dieticians (RDs). Unless you’re an RD, you are practicing a profession without a license, and are subject to prosecution.
As noted by Harcombe:
“Dietitians in America, therefore, enjoy a unique monopoly position and they have unfettered access to hospitals, schools, large institutions, prisons—all public health diet advice… dietitians also have sole access to private health advice. So, it is critical for us to know who is behind this monopolistic advice.”
Not surprisingly, partners of the American Dietetic Association include Coca-Cola, GlaxoSmithKline, the National Dairy Council, PepsiCo, and Unilever. Other premium sponsors also include Abbott Nutrition, Cargill, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, SoyJoy, and Truvia, which provide the association with $467 billion in sponsorships! The US is not alone in this situation. Similar nutrition monopolies have been set up in Australia and the UK, for example, and are funded by the same multinational processed food companies.
Take Action: Tell the American Society for Nutrition to Stop Bowing to the Junk Food Industry
The American Society for Nutrition (ANS) presents itself as an independent organization aimed at investigating and educating you about nutrition to prevent disease and promote health. The reality, however, is that the ANS is deeply entrenched with and beholden to junk food corporations, whose interests have very little to do with promoting good health, and everything to do with selling their products, no matter what the health impact may be. This kind of conflict of interest cannot be permitted to continue unchallenged.
The Alliance for Natural Health (ANH)14 has created a petition urging the American Society for Nutrition to stop pandering to and speaking for the junk food industry. If you’re as concerned about this as I am, please take a moment to sign the petition right now.
For Good Health, Eat REAL Food
If you want to be healthy, there are no substitutes for REAL food, meaning foods that you buy whole and cook from scratch. As a general rule, a diet that promotes health is high in healthy fats and is very, very low in sugar and non-vegetable carbohydrates, along with a moderate amount of high-quality protein.
For more specifics, please review my free optimized nutrition plan, which also includes exercise recommendations, starting at the beginner’s level and going all the way up to advanced. Organic foods are generally preferable, as this also cuts down on your pesticide and GMO exposure.
If you’re unsure of where to find wholesome local food, the following organizations can help:
- Local Harvest – This Web site will help you find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.
- Eat Wild – With more than 1,400 pasture-based farms, Eat Wild’s Directory of Farms is one of the most comprehensive sources for grass-fed meat and dairy products in the United States and Canada.
- Farmers’ Markets – A national listing of farmers’ markets.
- Eat Well Guide: Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals — The Eat Well Guide is a free online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs from farms, stores, restaurants, inns, and hotels, and online outlets in the United States and Canada.
- FoodRoutes – The FoodRoutes “Find Good Food” map can help you connect with local farmers to find the freshest, tastiest food possible. On their interactive map, you can find a listing for local farmers, CSA’s, and markets near you.