By: Samantha Adas
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Maryland Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (MAND) Annual Meeting that was held in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference had three separate session tracks for the attendees to choose and follow. While you could mix and match sessions, I chose to stick with the “Fact versus Fiction” track as the topics covered best matched my interests.
Two of the three talks I attended focused on dispelling common myths nutritionists and dietitians often hear. Soy has long been one of many foods struck with controversy; many often question whether it is “good” or “bad.” I knew that the research revolving around soy’s potential harm regarding women’s health was not very strong. However, I wanted to have more concise information to be able to better communicate the research behind soy as I often get asked this question by friends and family.
Dr. Mark Messina shared that the research against soy was either solely based on animal studies, which are known to metabolize components of soy differently than humans, or were based upon two case studies in which the two men were consuming over 12 cups of soy milk a day. In contrast, there is research demonstrating that soy is associated with benefits including decreased breast cancer risk, fewer hot flashes during menopause, and possibly skin improvements.
Another subject surrounded by controversy is organic foods and pesticide use. As a future dietitian, I want to make sure I have a good understanding of the actual facts. A panel comprised of a scientist, farmer, and crop advisor dived into this topic and discussed the use of pesticides in farming, along with other related topics in the following session. Regardless of where I end up in the field, I want to encourage fruits and vegetables whenever possible. With growing media influence, including social media, it can sometimes seem that if produce isn’t organic than it is not healthy. The public seeks out “clean” food but is often mislead by labeling. Some view an organic label as a stamp of health. However, the lesser-known truth is that organically grown crops use pesticides too, and often in larger amounts than that of conventionally grown crops. However, neither farming method should be of concern to consumers and their health. Lists such as the “dirty dozen” taint the reputation of beloved fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, however, even with the highest pesticide amounts, one could consume 1,500 strawberries a day without any negative impact from pesticide residue.
After a busy day, the meeting wrapped up with a talk by the Senior Director of Nutrition at the International Food Information Council, Kris Sollid. I really enjoyed this talk on the general public’s perception of nutrition and food trends. It is true that media plays a large role in the public’s perception of what is healthy or what is the best diet. However, it will be my role as a dietitian to use and disseminate evidence-based knowledge in a way that is understood by my target audience. I know that in order to do this successfully, I will need to stay aware of what the public believes regarding health and nutrition, because it may not always align with what health professionals know to be true. I am grateful to the American Dairy Association North East for sponsoring my registration to this event. I must admit that I was a little nervous going into the day as the only student there from my program. However, I know that it is important to get outside of my comfort zone and network with others who I look up to. I am thrilled I was able to learn such valuable knowledge that I will take with me and use when working with future clients or patients.
Reference: Fact Checking the Headlines: Pesticide Residues in Food and Insights into Food Production on the Farm. Common Ground. MAND Annual Meeting. 2019.