I just saw a full page ad in The Washington Post “Registered Dietitians agree that HFCS is the same as table sugar and can be enjoyed in moderation.”
As a communications expert and future dietitian, this bothers me. While the statement is not technically false, it is twisted. I think it uses dietitians as a way to position HFCS as recommended or even healthy and that’s dangerous for the field.
What is “moderation” anyway? It’s subjective. A young, active athlete has a lot more room for “moderation” than a sedentary, overweight 40-year-old female with a family history of diabetes and obesity.
White sugar is refined, just like HFCS. The first thing a dietitian is going to do is ask a person to add healthy fruits, vegetables, and grains to their meals and replace them with junk foods of poor nutrition quality -processed sugary and sweet foods – most of the stuff the CRA is promoting as “enjoy in moderation” foods.
I think this is an excellent “textbook” PR ad. If I had this assignment in grad school, I would use this same approach. I think it does its job to reach those “on the fence” to view HFCS positively “oh, ok fine in moderation”. But it is not good for the reputation of dietitians. It leaves the perception that dietitians are “in bed” with food companies. Perception is reality. Just like HFCS is perceived as unnatural or even poison dietitians could be perceived as thoughtless drones who are afraid to say “eat less” of anything — and that’s just not the case.
Here are some other interesting reads on the issue:
Serious Eats – the reader comments here indicate what’s going on with HFCS. Strong opinions that it is unnatural and discussion about whether or not it is “different” than other sweeteners.
BlogHer – opinion about how the ads are perceived as insulting – most likely by people who choose to avoid HFCS. So if the campaign goal is to shift some opinion positively toward HFCS, it may be failing.
Ask the dietitians blog – five HFCS facts, including “Reducing your intake of HFCS can help reduce calorie intake which in turn assists in weight management.”
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