Are Influencer Dietitians Just Sugar Shills? Ep 64

Are Influencer Dietitians Just Sugar Shills? Ep 64

Dieticians Caught Shilling for Big Food: An Exposé

Have you ever wondered if your favourite social media health influencer is really just a shill for big corporations? Well, wonder no more! A recent investigation by the Washington Post has blown the lid off the seedy underbelly of the dietitian influencer world. These so-called “experts” have been exposed for promoting unhealthy foods and artificial sweeteners, all while being paid big bucks by lobby groups and trade associations. Let’s dish the dirt!

The Jig is Up!

The Washington Post teamed up with the newly formed nonprofit newsroom The Examination to dig into this deception. What they found was shocking, but not surprising to anyone who follows the money trail. It turns out that multi-billion dollar food companies have been hiring dietitians to be their sneaky social media marketing minions. How diabolical!

The investigation focused on recent World Health Organisation reports warning about the health risks of artificial sweeteners like aspartame. The soda industry saw these reports as threatening their bottom line, so they whipped up a clever disinformation campaign. Suddenly, posts using hashtags like #safetyofaspartame started popping up from registered dietitians on Instagram and TikTok. How convenient!

These posts attempted to discredit the WHO findings as “clickbait” and reassure followers that aspartame was A-OK. But what wasn’t disclosed clearly was that these posts were bought and paid for by The American Beverage association, a lobby group for soda companies. The plot thickens!

Following the Money

The American Beverage association paid at least 35 influencers to shill for aspartame. This dirty dozen of sellouts included 10 registered dietitians, a doctor, and a fitness influencer. According to the investigation, they were paid an undisclosed amount ranging from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands per post! Seems like a lot of dough just to sprinkle a little false credibility on chemical sweeteners.

But wait, there’s more! The sugar industry also enlisted dietitians in their twisted schemes. The Canadian Sugar Institute, funded by sugar producers, paid at least 12 RDs to hype up sugary foods on social media. One post encouraged giving kids candy with dinner to help them develop “healthier relationships with food.” Sure, Jan.

Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that too much added sugar increases risks of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Minor details when there’s money to be made!

Disclosure Dilemmas

Federal Trade Commission guidelines require social media influencers to clearly disclose sponsored content as ads. But the dietitians in these campaigns buried their disclosures in tiny font or vague hashtags. Followers were left confused, questioning who was actually paying for these posts.

While the dieticians claimed the ads reflected their true beliefs, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has ethical guidelines about disclosing conflicts of interest. Funny enough, the Academy is also sponsored by American Beverage and other junk food companies. Can you spell H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-S-Y?


What can we learn from this sordid scandal? A few things:

  • Be skeptical of ALL health advice on social media, even from “experts”
  • Look closely for disclosures of paid promotions
  • Question claims that seem too good to be true
  • Follow the money to reveal biases and agendas
  • Sugary drinks and processed foods are never part of a healthy diet

The next time you see a smoothie bowl or snack haul hyped up by a dietitian influencer, ask yourself: are they selling out their integrity for a paycheck? Has this become an infomercial in disguise? Your health depends on your ability to separate nutritional fact from corporate fiction. Buyer beware!

At the end of the day, we all have to make our own choices about what to put in our bodies. But arming yourself with information helps filter out the fake news. Keep your eyes open and your BS detector on high alert. The truth is out there!

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