The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the United States‘ largest organization of food and nutrition professionals, and represents over 100,000 credentialed practitioners — registered dietitian nutritionists, dietetic technicians, registered, and other dietetics professionals holding undergraduate and advanced degrees in nutrition and dietetics. After nearly 100 years as the American Dietetic Association, the organization officially changed its name to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2012. The organization’s members are primarily registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs) and nutrition and dietetic technicians, registered (NDTR) as well as many researchers, educators, students, nurses, physicians, pharmacists, clinical and community dietetics professionals, consultants and food service managers.
The Academy has faced controversy regarding corporate influence related to its relationship with the food industry and funding from corporate groups such as McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Mars, and others.
- 1 Origins
- 2 Finances and Organization
- 3 Influence and positions
- 4 Certification
- 5 Awards
- 6 Lobbying efforts and competitive protections
- 7 Kids Eat Right
- 8 Controversy
- 9 Additional publications
- 10 References
- 11 External links
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics was founded in 1917 in Cleveland, Ohio, by a group of women led by Lenna F. Cooper and the Academy’s first president, Lulu G. Graves, who were dedicated to helping the government conserve food and improve public health during World War I. It is now headquartered in Chicago, Illinois.
The original mission of the Academy was in part to help make maximal use of America’s food resources during wartime. In its first year, the Academy attracted 58 members. It remained a small organization, remaining under the 1,000 member mark until the 1930s. As the group’s scope expanded, so did its membership numbers. Between the 1930s and 1960s, membership skyrocketed to more than 60,000. Growth trajectory has since stabilized, and the Academy marked its 70,000th member when a female dietitian in Texas rejoined the Academy in May 2009. Since its founding in 1917, the Academy has gained members in every decade.
An authorized seal for the organization was adopted by the Executive Board and presented to members on October 24, 1940. At its center are symbols of the three main characteristics of the profession: a balance scale, representing science as the foundation and symbolizing equality; a caduceus, representing the close relationship between dietetics and medicine; and a cooking vessel, representing cookery and food preparation. Around the main design is a shaft of wheat, representing bread, the staff of life, and stylized acanthus leaves, representing growth and life. Over the design is a cornucopia, representing an abundant food supply. Beneath the design is the motto, Quam Plurimis Prodesse (“To benefit as many as possible”). Around the edge is the name of the organization and the date of its founding written in Roman numerals.
The seal is still in use on Registration Status Certificates for both registered dietitians and dietetic technicians, registered, as well as on the gold Member Pin.
According to current Academy president Sylvia Escott Stump, the group changed their name to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2012 to reflect the scientific and academic expertise of its members.
National Nutrition Month
In 1973, the Academy created “National Nutrition Week.” The theme the first year was “Invest in Yourself…Buy Nutrition.” On May 9, 2010, the Academy proclaimed “Registered Dietitian’s Day” to honor the “indispensable providers of food and nutrition services and to recognize RDs for their commitment to helping people enjoy healthy lives.” The association also sponsors “National Nutrition Month” in March in the U.S.
Finances and Organization
In 2015, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics had disclosed net assets of $48 million, the bulk of which was in cash and investments. It took in $11.3M in annual membership dues, and an additional $7.4M in registration and examination fees. In 2015, it took in $35.2 million in revenue on expenses of $38.4M for an operating loss of $3.4M. After accounting for return on investments, the Academy posted a deficit of $544,722 for the 2015 fiscal year. In the same year, they received $1.1 million in corporate sponsorships from companies like General Mills, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo via donations, joint initiatives, and programs.
The Academy has offices both in Chicago and Washington DC. In addition to the Academy, the organization maintains several other organizations and entities, including the Commission on Dietetic Registration, Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education, Dietetic Practice Groups, Academy Political Action Committee, and Academy Foundation. There are also several “member interest groups” which include more than 4,800 members with common interests or specialties including Fifty Plus in Nutrition and Dietetics; Filipino Americans in Dietetics and Nutrition; Muslims in Dietetics and Nutrition; and National Organization of Blacks in Dietetics and Nutrition.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation
In 1966, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics established its Foundation as the only 501(c)(3) public charity devoted exclusively to nutrition and dietetics. The Foundation is the world’s largest provider of dietetic scholarships at all levels of study with other programs including awards, research grants, fellowships, public education programs and disaster relief efforts.
The Foundation shares a vision with the Academy: A world where all people thrive through the transformative power of food and nutrition. The Foundation’s mission is: “Through philanthropy, empower current and future food and nutrition practitioners to optimize global health”. 
Funding for various programs, funds, scholarships, initiatives and grants of the Foundation are raised by Academy members; giving societies; legacy, matching and tribute donations; program fees and offerings; and gifts, sponsorships and grants from for-profit and non-profit organizations. The Foundation was given a four-star overall rating by CharityNavigator.org in 2018 based on data from fiscal year 2017. 
The Foundation’s official website is www.eatrightFoundation.org.
Influence and positions
Through its research journal, the Academy shapes and influences the public and legislative discussion about health, food safety and nutrition. Academy RD’s are regularly quoted in world publications such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Men’s Fitness, O Magazine, Consumer Reports, Forbes and Huffington Post. In 2010, the organization stated it received approximately 30 billion media impressions annually.
As an organization and research institute, the Academy holds a variety of influential health positions, including:
- The Academy “maintains that the only way to lose weight is through a healthy, well-balanced diet and exercise.”
- The Academy’s stated position is that “there are no good or bad foods, only good and bad diets.” According to the Academy such labeling or “bumpers” confuse the public.
- The Academy states that “exclusive breastfeeding provides optimal nutrition and health protection for the first 6 months of life and breastfeeding with complementary foods from 6 months until at least 12 months of age is the ideal feeding pattern for infants.”
- The Academy “believes that up to two servings of soy per day for adults could be part of a healthy diet.”
- The Academy has stated that a “well-planned vegan diet” (no meat, dairy or animal products) is appropriate and healthy for babies.
- The Academy states that to combat the obesity epidemic, adults and children need access to healthy foods, education on eating well, and preventative health services, including counseling by registered dietitian nutritionists. They support the White House and Michelle Obama‘s efforts to end the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation.
- The Academy opposed mandated labeling of “trans fats” on food packaging.
- The Academy has given low ratings to the high-protein, low-carb diet known as the Atkins Diet, insisting that the diet is “unhealthy and the weight loss is temporary.” The Academy maintains that carbohydrates are not responsible for weight gain any more than other forms of calories.
- The Academy states that children who eat breakfast have better concentration, problem-solving skills, and eye–hand coordination. Children who do not eat breakfast are tired at school and eat more junk food.
Research and Publications
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics publishes position papers on public health regarding pediatric (children‘s) health, food technology, food safety, geriatrics (elderly) health, health-care reform, obesity and food and nutrition topics through the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (ANDJ).
The Academy has also published 3 editions of the American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide. Through its publishing arm, the Academy has published such books and guides as Easy Gluten-Free, ADA Pocket Guide to Eating Disorders, ADA Pocket Guide to Lipid Disorders, Hypertension, Diabetes and Weight Management, ADA Quick Guide to Drug-Supplement Interactions and Making Nutrition Your Business. It also maintains the site eatright.org.
In the 1980s, the Academy published the magazine Food/2 which had originally been created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In response pressure from meat, egg, and dairy industries, the Department of Agriculture decided not publish it, after which the Academy negotiated with the government to publish it itself, omitting the controversial chapters on fat and cholesterol. The decision was widely criticized, with participating dietitians stating “it is just incredible that they would publish it without the most important part.”
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics certification process offers two career options: Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) and Nutrition and Dietetics Technician, Registered (NDTR). Both are educated nutrition professionals qualified to work in hospitals, academia and private practice, and differ mostly in the hours of training and level of college degree required. A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist must complete a bachelor’s degree or higher and more than 900 hours of training, while a Dietetic Technician is required to complete and associate level degree and 450 hours of training. About 72% of the Academy’s members are Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, and 2% are Nutrition Dietetic Technicians, Registered. Members are granted these accredited titles by fulfilling the Academy’s strenuous certification requirements in addition to any state or local regulations. Through its ADAF foundation, the Academy issued nearly $500,000 in certification scholarships in 2011, $100,000 of which went to doctoral students.
The terms “Registered Dietitian Nutritionist” and “Nutrition Dietetic Technician, Registered” are “legally protected titles” and can be used only by someone who has completed coursework approved by the Academy. In recent years, the AND has lobbied for stricter regulation over the professional licensing of dietitian and nutrition professionals and supported state regulations that would include heavy fines for the dispensing of nutritional advice without the proper license.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’s Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND) is the organization’s accrediting agency for education programs that prepare individuals for careers as dietetics professionals. Prior to 2011,[disputed (for: happening in 2013?) – discuss] ACEND was known as the Commission on Accreditation for Dietetics Education (CADE). The Accreditation Council is recognized by the Department of Education and is a member of the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors. The council’s fees earn the Academy over $1 million per year.
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is a “food and nutrition expert” who has fulfilled the minimum requirements for the titled RD.
Requirements include the following items:
- Earning a bachelor’s degree with course work approved by the Academys’s Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Coursework typically includes food and nutrition sciences, foodservice systems management, business, economics, computer science, sociology, biochemistry, physiology, microbiology and chemistry.
- Completing an accredited, supervised practice program at a health-care facility, community agency or foodservice corporation.
- Passing a national examination administered by the Commission on Dietetic Registration.
- Completing continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.
- In addition to the costs of the college coursework, the Academy charges a $200 application fee for registered dietitians.
- Students must complete a 1,200 hour internship to sit for the Registered Dietitian exam.
Approximately 50% of RDs hold advanced degrees. Some RDNs also hold additional certifications in specialized areas of practice, such as pediatric or renal nutrition, nutrition support and diabetes education. In addition to any Academy requirements (and often with some overlap), many states have laws for dietitians and nutrition practitioners.
Nutrition Dietetic Technician, Registered (NDTR)
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, NDTRs are “a food and nutrition practitioner” who has fulfilled the minimum requirements for the title NDTR.
These requirements, while similar to an RD, differ in that they require:
- A minimum of an Associate’s degree.
- At least 450 hours of supervised practice accredited by ACEND.
- Successful pass a national DTR examination administered by CDR.
- Complete continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration.
NDTR’s typically work closely with RD in numerous employment settings such as hospitals, health care facilities, private practice, day care centers, correctional facilities and weight loss centers. The Academy application fee to become an NDTR is $120.
The Academy gives several awards, of which the highest is the Marjorie Hulsizer Copher Award, named for American dietitian Marjorie Hulsizer Copher (1892-1935) and given annually since 1945 to a member who “has contributed to the profession through extensive, active participation and service to the profession of nutrition and dietetics, both within and outside of the Academy”. Other awards include the Lenna Frances Cooper Memorial Lecture Award, named for American dietitian Lenna Frances Cooper and given to ” a notable and inspiring speaker” who presents the memorial lecture.
Lobbying efforts and competitive protections
To help better communications with the US government, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has offices in Washington, DC. They also operate their own political action committee, the Academy’s Political Action Committee. The Academy spent $5.8 million lobbying at the state and national level from 2000–2010.
A 1985 report noted the Academy has supported licensing for dispensing nutritional advice. In addition to supporting legislation regulating the professional nutrition field in states like Colorado, Wyoming, Hawaii, New Jersey and New York, the Academy has also applied for patents for its certification titles such as: “Certified Nutrition Coach,” “Certified Nutrition Professional,” “Registered Nutrition Professional,” and “Certified Nutrition Educator.” The Academy states that by regulating who can provide nutritional counseling, they can protect their registered members and the public from unregulated advice or possibly inaccurate advice from less qualified dietary practitioners such as chiropractors, yoga instructors, homeopaths, and personal trainers. The Academy’s support of this legislation has generated strong opposition from alternative health practitioners and libertarian groups, who state that “highly restrictive bills could create a monopoly for one school of traditional nutrition thought” and that the primary intent of the bill is “not to protect the public, but to give clout and recognition to a single segment of dietitians, increasing their chances of obtaining reimbursement from insurance companies.”
Kids Eat Right
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the ADA Foundation launched their first joint initiative, Kids Eat Right, in November 2010. This member-driven campaign is dedicated to supporting the efforts of the White House to end the childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. Kids Eat Right is a two-tiered campaign aimed to mobilize Academy members to participate in community and school childhood obesity prevention efforts, and also to educate families, communities, and policy makers about the importance of quality nutrition.
Kids Eat Right has a website that gives families healthy eating tips, articles, videos, and recipes from registered dietitians. Kids Eat Right also has scientifically-based health information centered around the theme “Shop-Cook-Eat” which has information about how to shop for healthy foods, how to cook foods with the most nutrient value, and gives the benefits of eating together at home and away from home.
In 1982, the organization faced mass resignations from members over a decision to support President Ronald Reagan‘s cuts in food stamps and school lunch programs. The decision was largely a political trade-off; the Reagan administration agreed to drop its proposal to deregulate nursing homes in exchange for the Academy’s support of the school lunch and food stamp cuts.
Criticism of partnerships with food companies
A 1995 report, noted the Academy received funding from companies like McDonald’s, PepsiCo, The Coca-Cola Company, Sara Lee, Abbott Nutrition, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, McNeil Nutritionals, SOYJOY, Truvia, Unilever, and The Sugar Association as corporate sponsorship. The Academy also partners with ConAgra Foods, which produces Orville Redenbacker, Slim Jims, Hunt’s Ketchup, SnackPacks, and Hebrew National hot dogs, to maintain the American Dietetic Association/ConAgra Foods Home Food Safety…It’s in Your Hands program. Additionally, the Academy earns revenue from corporations by selling space at its booth during conventions, doing this for soft drinks and candy makers.
In April 2013, a dietitian working on a panel charged with setting policy on genetically modified foods for the academy contended she was removed for pointing out that two of its members had ties to Monsanto, one of the biggest makers of genetically modified seeds. The resulting controversy highlighted the fact that Ms. Smith Edge, chairwoman of the committee charged with developing the GMO policy, is a senior vice president at the International Food Information Council, which is largely financed by food, beverage and agriculture businesses, including companies like DuPont, Bayer CropScience and Cargill, companies that were among the biggest financial opponents of a State of California GMO labeling initiative.
The Academy maintains that being at the “same table” with food companies is important in order to exert a positive influence over their products and message, although critics describe this as an “unhealthy alliance” between the Academy and junk food companies. The accusation is that despite what good may come of such programs, it ultimately whitewashes (similar to the greenwashing efforts of environmentally irresponsible companies) the brand’s role in the country’s food ecosystem. Watchdogs note that the Academy rarely criticizes food companies, believing it to be out of fear of “biting the hand that feeds them.” Nutrition expert Marion Nestle opined that she believed that as long as the AND partners with the makers of food and beverage products, “its opinions about diet and health will never be believed [to be] independent.” Public health lawyer Michele Simon, who researches and writes about the food industry and food politics, has voiced similar concerns stating, “AND [is] deeply embedded with the food industry, and often communicate[s] messaging that is industry friendly.” A 2011 survey, found that 80% of Academy members are critical of the Academy’s position. They believe that the Academy is endorsing corporate sponsors and their products when it allows their sponsorship.
In March 2015, Academy had endorsed Kraft Singles cheese product with the ‘Kids Eat Right’ label. Due to negative publicity, they entered into negotiations with Kraft to cancel this endorsement.
The organization also publishes nutrition facts sheets for the general public, which food companies pay $20,000 to take part in writing the documents. A list of these publications for the general public include:
- What’s a Mom to Do: Healthy Eating Tips for Families sponsored by Wendy’s.
- Lamb: The Essence of Nutrient Rich Flavor sponsored by the Tri-Lamb Group.
- Cocoa and Chocolate: Sweet News! sponsored by the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition.
- Eggs: A Good Choice for Moms-to-Be sponsored by the American Egg Board.
- Adult Beverage Consumption: Making Responsible Drinking Choices sponsored by the Distilled Spirits Council.
This industry funding also gives food companies the ability to offer official educational seminars to teach dietitians how to advise their clients in a way that advances the interests of the food company. For instance, in a Coca-Cola sponsored seminar for dietitians, the speaker promoted free sugars consumption for children as a healthy choice.
The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (JAND), formerly titled the Journal of the American Dietetic Association (JADA), is a monthly peer-reviewed publication involved in the dietetics field, with original research, critical reviews, and reports on dietetics and human nutrition.
- Official website
- Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics official peer-reviewed journal
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation
- American Dietetic Association at SourceWatch