Every week, I get emails from parents asking me whether I supported specific alternative diets, which include a wide variety of unproven diets that may cause harm. I often have to send a disappointing response, that unfortunately I do not support diets without any evidence of its efficacy, explaining about the lack of evidence and the potential harm. I know, that following my “no, I can not help”, many will knock on doors of unqualified practitioners, who often are well-meaning but lack the in-depth nutritional knowledge and some may also see the support for fad diets as a way for financial gain.
I wanted to write this blogpost as I think many people do not understand that dietitians are registered, which means they have to have completed a minimum of a degree in dietetics, completed a clinical supervision program (working in hospital/community settings during their training), show ongoing continuous professional education and most importantly practice according to the code of conduct set up by their professional body. Here is the code of practice for dietitians in the UK.
This means, that dietitians may loose the privilege to practice if they practice unsafely and outside of scope of their knowledge. We are educated, like medical doctors, to implement dietary changes based on best clinical evidence. This is of course is the ideal, but for many dietary interventions, evidence, judged by a clinical trial, may not exist. In the absence of such evidence, dietitians will then need to make the call, whether a diet is deemed to be harmful to a child or not before implementation. This is where our knowledge of human physiology, metabolism and also previously published related trials is of critical importance. Ultimately, your dietitian, has to carry the responsibility that the dietary intervention is not harmful and may be of benefit. If there is no evidence of efficacy of a specific diet and the diet may be harmful for your child, a registered dietitian, may not be able to support that dietary intervention. However, dietitians are also trained to know and understand the dietary interventions that work and are of benefit for specific diagnoses.
When a registered dietitian is therefore not supportive of a specific fad diet on social media or does not support dietary eliminations/modification for specific conditions, it is because their primary objective is not to do any harm to the patient and their education has trained them to assess dietary interventions according to the evidence of efficacy. So, whilst everybody wants to follow the newest fad that is shared by some celebrity/alternative practitioner, you can trust your dietitian, to understand the implication of these proposed diets for your child, as an individual.