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Nutritional blogs are everywhere over the web, giving information and advice as to how to live a healthy lifestyle. Some focus on specific conditions like cancer, diabetes and celiac disease. Other focus on simply eating better to regain health. And the advice is all over the map, from low-fat, reduced calorie, to vegetarian and vegan to low carb and Paleo which is our focus. Where ever you are in the spectrum, the goal is to educate and help people become healthier. Many of these blogs are just the record of a person’s journey from unhealthy and obese to lean and fit. These individuals have found something that worked for them and they want to shout if from the roof top.
But according to some people these websites are dangerous because they give health advice. In the view of some, only a trained certified professional can give such advice. The question is what is really going on here? Are we just passing on good information that may improve someone’s health? Or are we providing competition for the certified dietitians? Are Paleo diet nutritional blogs really dangerous?
For those who have not heard the story, Steve Cooksey, blogger at Diabetes-Warrior.net had been given cease and desist orders by the North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition. They were threatening to send him to jail for publicly recounting his battle with diabetes and for encouraging others to follow the Paleo diet. From the Carolina Journal Online:
Chapter 90, Article 25 of the North Carolina General Statutes makes it a misdemeanor
to “practice dietetics or nutrition” without a license. According to the law, “practicing” nutrition includes “assessing the nutritional needs of individuals and groups” and “providing nutrition counseling.”
When he was hospitalized with diabetes in February 2009, he decided to avoid the fate of his grandmother, who eventually died of the disease. He embraced the low-carb, high-protein Paleo diet, also known as the “caveman” or “hunter-gatherer” diet. The diet, he said, made him drug- and insulin-free within 30 days. By May of that year, he had lost 45 pounds and decided to start a blog about his success.
The North Carolina state dietetics and nutrition board took exception to his site and said they would prosecute unless he makes substantial changes like completely rewriting his 3 year old blog.While Cooksey has the First Amendment right to write about his experience he cannot encourage people to follow the Paleo lifestyle unless he becomes a state certified dietician or nutritionist..
Steve made some modifications to his site which, at this time, the state has accepted as enough for them to drop the charges. On April 27th he posted this on his blog:
I received a letter from the North Carolina Board of Dietetics and Nutritionists stating that I am in ‘substantial compliance’ with NC Law. The letter was dated April 9, 2012 and I received it April 20, 2012. If this is new to you, click here for the investigation post.
In January, the state board opened an investigation into my blog and told me to stop advising people through my blog postings, publicly or in private. No matter if it was for compensation or for free. Essentially, the board told me that not only could I not charge people to talk about diet, I could not talk to my friends about diet.
The board made it clear that talking about diet without a license is a crime and they could take me to court.
In response to this investigation, I did three things:
1) stopped doing my published advice column.
2) took down my diabetes support package links.
3) and made my disclaimer more prominent. Additionally, I added a disclaimer at the bottom of every page.
Because I complied with their order to stop speaking and to change what I say and what I publish, the board concluded that I am in substantial compliance and closed the investigation.
All this means is that the board has violated my First Amendment rights by silencing me and altering how I express my opinions.
My compliance is compliance with their violation of my rights, not an agreement between us that I was wrong and they were right.
The letter actually threatens to keep monitoring me.
I have absolutely no intention of complying with the board’s violation of my free speech rights. I intend to defend those rights, not only for myself, but for everyone.
This is America and in America people should be free to give each other advice about things like diet.
This isn’t the end of the fight, this is not over.
It’s just the end of round one.
THANK YOU ALL FOR ALL OF THE SUPPORT!!! … I will not back down and I will not waiver!
Thank you Steve for your determination. All of us who have created blogs like yours are all seeking one thing – to educated people about alternative food choices that actually may in fact, improve health.
The difference here between the bloggers and state health and nutrition boards is that we seek wellness. The boards seek maintenance. They may not like this but it is true. If government health organizations really wanted people to get better they would leave no stone unturned to find the cause and cure for a condition or disease. But that they resist recognizing a permanent cure when it becomes apparent speaks volumes. I believe it is because Paleo diet nutritional blogs ARE a danger. Not to the health and wellness of the population in general, but that we challenge the ideas that they have held onto for so long. But their methods and recommendations don’t work and that is patently obvious. If I didn’t know any better I’d say they were insane since a definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.
All health bloggers, especially us
Paleo bloggers, owe a debt to Steve Cooksey for his stance on this. This is probably the first test case for us in the Paleosphere, where our right to write about health and wellness has been challenged. I know that I for one will be watching this very carefully.