Blog Archive

Friday, 11 November 2011

Cowboy Nutritionists And Cranks

This will be a brief post but there is more to follow. I was in London today at the Milk and Sport Conference which I will brief you on later in the week. However, for now I want to focus on cowboy nutrition practitioners and cranks out there pushing snake oil and bulls@!t! Yet they still manage to make a good living out of it...somehow!?!?? Read the chapters on Gillian McKeith and Patrick Holford in Ben Goldacre's Bad Science Book to get an idea of what I mean by nutrition cranks.

As you may have read from my last post, there are some sport nutrition practitioners out there who are genuine, have all the right qualifications, registrations and practice evidence-based sport nutrition. In the UK, you know who you are and I have a lot of respect for you lot! However, there are also several high profile practitioners out there who not only work with elite athletes but are also not registered nutritionists or dieticians. As I mentioned in my previous post, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist (but not dietician), as the title is not protected. Now, let me clarify my point, I am not against practitioners who haven't got these basic CV necessities to work in elite sport nutrition, but I am against those who fail to follow the basic principles of science. The tell tale signs of cowboy nutritionists are always obvious and here is a guide:

** They sell sports foods, dietary supplements and ergogenic aids through their website or similar means

** They cherry pick the evidence to suit their arguments. This is a tough one to spot for the average Joe as they may not have the expertise to identify bullsh@t!

** They do not use any scientific reference whatsoever in their article!

** They misinterpret the scientific evidence or mould it to fit their argument particularly to sell a technique, diet or supplement.

So be careful and don't believe everything you read! It is fairly easy to write something 'sciency' by cherry picking the evidence and misleading people in believing something that isn't quite true. This is why sport nutrition has become a full time job for some very good and well qualified individuals. Sport nutrition is a growing area of research and if you want world class nutrition support then make sure you go and seek a practitioner who not only has the right qualifications but also has the experience and knowledge in the area. Don't spend your hard earned money on ineffective dietary supplements and expect a miracle result because long term nutrition success requires dedication, consistency, planning, discipline and knowledge.

Don't believe everything you read and make sure that before you do, there is a balanced argument with enough scientific evidence. There are a lot of nutrition cowboy practitioners out there in the world but as long as we challenge their recommendations and ask for supporting evidence, they have to justify their existence just like any other scientist out there.

Always ask why...

Mayur Ranchordas


  1. Hi Mayur,

    Can anyone use the title Dietician? I thought it was protected whether registered was used or not...

    I take it you're not a fan of Patrick Holford's Institute of Optimum Nutrition then...? ;)

  2. Mac-Nutritin,

    You are correct. Dietician is a protected title but nutritionist is not - Cheers for spotting my error I have corrected it! The problem we have in the UK is that anyone can call themselves a sport nutritionist or performance nutritionist and can work with athletes. It's up to us to encourage sports to ensure they only employ credible practitioners.....You know who you lot are!


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