Hello folks! Today is Fight Back Friday, and as a special treat, we are going to dig into a controversial topic – our right to give dietary advice. Just how far can we go? Stick around and let’s see if we can make our way through this thorny issue.
This post grew out of a problem that Steve Cooksey is encountering over at Diabetes-Warrior.net. He is currently being investigated by the NCBDN (North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition) for giving dietary counselling without a license to practice.
Of course, my favorite renegade Richard Nikoley has a superb post over at Free The Animal with a comment section that is eating me alive. You know that I am not a person that is always status quo, but I agree with the NCBDN that Steve Cooksey has gone too far.
My Experience on This Matter:
Okay, for those of you reading my blog a long time now, you know how I was diagnosed with diabetes. You know that I went through a struggle with my sugars, and you know that I went and passed off what I found to you. How can I say that someone else can’t give dietary counseling without a license?
I quickly found that you can find a lot of information online about the disease. A lot of it is shit. People come off like they are an authority on the subject because they are doing something that appears (for now) to be working for them. It’s a nice gesture, they are trying to pass off that information to others.
I stopped doing that because my wife once asked me, “Who do you think you are?”
That question really threw me for a loop. I don’t have credentials, I have absolutely no stake in getting someone better. In fact, (as I see in a lot of blogs out there,) I could easily just turn around and say, “Oh, N=1! Sorry!”
Let’s examine why you need a license to practice medicine or give dietary advice to someone with a medical condition:
- N=1 is fine and all. You can for sure tell me what you have done, and what works for you.
- What works for you may not work for me. What gives you the tools to dispense advice is clinical experience?
- When you start dispensing advice to take care of a chronic condition, you are entering into a relationship with the person, who may have adverse responses to your counsel.
- Like it or not, you also need protection that a license gives you, and so does the patient. If the advice you are giving ends up damaging the patient, there needs to be a consequence.
- The license is granted by a board under the understanding that you will follow the guidelines laid out as requirements of that license.
- Your advice should be on the back of data present, not a snake oil remedy, or a pseudo-science. Lives are at stake here.
- Do we really want to go back to a day where there are no licenses, so you have no guarantee that the advice you are given is grounded on solid evidence? If Ethel tells the village that in order to cure cancer, everyone should eat their tulip bulbs, do we all give that a try? That was what medicine was like before licensing, and science to back it up.
- By most laws, you are allowed to give nutritional advice to someone who is healthy, and with no medical condition. Once that person is diabetic, or with another medical condition, and seeking individual nutrition information, it is up to the advisor to direct their questions to a medical professional. This is nothing new – all current Paleo/Primal superstars do this – either by a healthy disclaimer, or by simply stating you should see a physician before starting their program.
- The advice given on most famous sites like, Mark’s Daily Apple, Robb Wolf, and others are very much generalized information. They are at the edge of what is allowed, but notice they don’t cross that edge.
You need to be careful about the advice that you solicit to people. The words, advice that you use can have consequences that you are not able to deal with. This is why almost everyone who gives any advice in the Paleo/Primal field, or in any dietary or nutrition book will ALWAYS preface their advice with the standard legal disclaimer that you should consult your physician before starting a protocol or fitness program.
The problem may come from the so-called “Conventional Wisdom,” but I suggest that fighting the dietician is not the way to solve the problem. What we need are real clinical trials and data so that we can change that conventional wisdom.
Giving dietary advice that is unlicensed is NOT the way forward, it is the way backwards. Indeed, in the case of Steve Cooksey – it further fuels the notion that Primal dietary regiment is on the fringe, not a viable alternative to the standard practices.
Why is that? Because Steve Cooksey is not a licensed dietetic, who IS dispensing advice as if he were. To quote my wife, and many other diabetics, “Who does this guy think he is? Why should I trust him to give me dietary advice over the doctor?”
I have no problem with him telling us what works for him, but to come off like he knows what is best, and is the authority on the matter? I’ll pass thank you – I have my life to worry about.
You may think I am totally off my rocker, many people do. What do you think? Should a person be required to have a license in order to dispense dietary advice to a patient with a medical condition? Let me know in the comments!
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