/ Food & Drink, Health

Has your diet been helped by a nutritional therapist?

Smiley face made from fruit and veg

Nutritional therapists can help identify patterns in your eating habits, but is their advice always nutritionally sound? My friend recently went to one, but the advice she was given has left me feeling curious about their role.

She was feeling a bit run down and had suffered a few colds and thought some improvements to her diet might help.

She was told to record a food diary for three days and take it along to the consultation so the therapist could see the types of food in her diet and see whether she was missing any food groups or lacking in any nutrients.

The nutritional therapist took a history of symptoms and went through her food diary. At the end of the session the therapist advised her to stop eating wheat and dairy as she said they were too difficult to digest and were putting strain on her digestive system.

She also recommended that she start drinking fresh fruit and veg juice every morning. While this sounds sensible in terms of increasing fruit and veg intake, it is much better to eat the fruit and veg because you lose much of the fibre through juicing.

The importance of different food groups

But, as a nutritionist, my main concern was the total elimination of dairy and wheat. These are important food groups in the diet – especially dairy which is our main source of calcium.

Elimination of dairy from the diet is potentially dangerous as it can lead to calcium deficiency, which has implications for bone health. If you do cut out dairy then it’s important that you get your calcium from other foods – fortified soya milk, sardines and other small fish where you eat the bones, tofu, green leafy veg or even calcium supplements.

To me, it seems as though every other person is cutting down on wheat and dairy. I’m not sure why these particular foods are demonised as most of us don’t have intolerances to them.

Have you ever visited a nutritionist or therapist who has advised you on your diet? Where did you find them? Where you happy with the results?

Alex M says:
17 January 2012

Jonathan, please do see the work of the wonderful Food and Behaviour Research (FAB), founded by Dr Alex Richardson for some excellent scientific resources. I’m surprised that you are so dismissive of evidence as there is rather a lot of very robust science in the nutrition field.

Jonathan – No information has been given by Which about the selection of therapists in the recent survey of 15 therapist. You state it was random. Are you assuming this? Or are you privy to information that hasn’t been published?

I suggest that you look at the comments on bias affecting the Which research from http://thehealthbank.co.uk/whichs-brew/

“Which? offers no insight into how the sample was selected – it should of course be completely random but in the absence of confirmation doubts must remain. Certainly if it transpires the nutritional therapists were individually selected by the review panel, the entire basis of the study is undermined. This is known as selection bias.”

“One supposed aim of the study was to measure the quality of advice on offer by nutritional therapists. The questions were designed specifically to tempt the subjects into indiscretion and error, which clearly implies the covert real aim of this project was to ‘expose’ supposed charlatans much in the way the late and unlamented News Of The World might have approached the question. Secretly recording advice given in good faith in response to questions partly designed by those with a conflict of interest is good tabloid journalism, but extremely bad science. This is a fine example of measurement bias”.