I have to admit that I don't like conflict. I was raised to be a peacemaker and to express my opinion with humility. So I was hoping to avoid this topic, but one of my readers requested that I speak on this little news item blogged about here and linked to the full article here. I was asked to give my opinion, and since I try to provide evidenced-based information on my blog, I have clearly marked this one "opinion," meaning that it's going to be hard for me and everyone reading to view and discuss this without bias. So take a deep breath, remember that we are all in this together.
First of all I have no problem with people being successful with improving their health, and if they want to share what works for them, I think that is fantastic. I wish I had more patients with Mr. Cooksey's desire to take charge of their health! I do think people who run said websites, etc do have an obligation to be transparent about what kind of medical training (and Mr. Cooksey does have this prominently displayed on his Diabetes Warrior website. What I do have a problem with, however, is when people who do have "zero" training in a certain field actually ask to get paid to make assessments and then give advice. I think there is a reason that regulations about licensure for professionals are in place, to protect us from fraud. For example, if I am going to sit in a dentist's chair, I want to make sure that that person has actually had training in dentisty and the ethics that go with it, not someone who has learned from a book. If I am going to get training on how to safely operate a gun for a concealed handgun license, I would like to know that the person who is training me knows how to safely operate and clean that weapon. If I am seeing a therapist to talk about my depression, I want to be reassured that this person is protected by the ethics of their profession to not blab my innermost thoughts to the public. If I want to learn what foods to put in my body, I want that person to actually have some biochemistry background and provide evidence based information.
Now, the regulations aren't the be all and end all. Unfortunately too many of us have known doctors, dietitians, dentists, etc that are not trained in critical thinking and refuse to change their minds based on evidence (to put it mildly). I think we still have a responsibility to question our health care providers and challenge them when if they say something that doesn't sound right. And there are doctors, dietitian's, etc who are actually friendly towards Mr. Cooksey's way of eating (At least for the "low carb" part. I am constantly reminding people that one of the authors of the updated Atkins diet book, Dr. Jeff Volek, is a Registered Dietitian). Now, if Mr. Cooksey wants to call out the people who he thinks gave him false information, once again I think that is well within his right, the difference is that he apparently is asking for money for something that is the realm of licensed individuals. And when he says "no one else is going to put this information out there but me, isn't that just a little insulting to people like Dr. Volek and others of his ilk who actually have degrees, experience, and are critical thinkers?
One of the other questions remaining for me, however, is why Mr. Cooksey in particular was the one who was attacked, as there are plenty of other non-licensed people out there who have been asking for money for nutrition related information. Like the guy who was the "nutritionist" that worked at the Pilates place that I used to go to, basically he catered to whatever diet the owner was trying to follow, including the Eat Right For Your Blood Type diet. I suppose it's because he doesn't exactly have a history of playing nice with members of the state Dietetic Association, and if you get someone's defences up, it doesn't exactly promote rational conversation. Once again, that's just my opinion as a "non-fire-brand" type of person. I can emphathize with the bitterness that people feel if they received incorrect advice; I've just never found bitterness and name-calling to be useful in promoting rational conversation and it has never enhanced my postition as a rational being. (Not to say that there shouldn't be places for like minds to get together and gripe, but make sure the gripe part doesn't keep you from thinking rationally).
Take home message--I think online support is a great tool for people to offer support and advice, but I feel more comfortable handing over money to a person who has actually undergone training.
Edited: Apparently some people are having trouble following the highlighted links.
Link 1 about the drama: http://www.economicfreedom.org/2013/02/25/man-forced-to-stop-providing-dieting-advice/
Link 2 about the drama: http://money.cnn.com/gallery/smallbusiness/2013/01/30/regulation-license/5.html
Link to Steve Cooksey's website, where you can find out about his story and see the disclaimer: http://www.diabetes-warrior.net/