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The Nutrition Society is the interim professional body for nutrition. It seems that, unlike so many ‘regulatory bodies’, it may actually take its responsibilities seriously. The following announcement has appeared on their web site.

The UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists acts to protect the public and the reputation the nutrition profession

On March 4th 2009, a Fitness to Practice Panel was convened to consider an allegation against a registrant, Dr Ann Walker, that her fitness to practise was impaired. The panel considered whether the registrant, in advocating the use of a web based personal nutritional profiling service had complied with the Code of Ethics’ clause 3: This expects all registered nutritionists to “maintain the highest standards of professionalism and scientific integrity”. In particular, the panel considered whether the registrant showed “knowledge, skills and performance of high quality, up-to-date, and relevant to their field of practice”, in keeping with the Statement of Professional Conduct (para 9). The Panel accepted the allegation of impaired fitness to practice. Mindful of its duty to protect the public, it recommended that Dr Walker be removed from the register. Dr Walker has a right of appeal.

Well. well, this must be none other than the Dr Ann Walker who caused UCL,and me, such trouble a few years ago.  And just because I described her use of the word “blood cleanser” as gobbledygook. She has appeared a few times on this blog.

Presumably the “web-based personal nutritional profiling service” that is referred to is Nutriprofile, on which, with the help of a dietition, we had a bit of fun a while ago.  However ideal your diet it still recommended at the end of the questionnaire that you should buy some expensive supplements. Read about it at Nutriprofile: useful aid or sales scam?

I have no idea who lodged the complaint (but it wasn’t me).

It is interesting to compare the high standards of the Nutrition Society with the quite different standards of BANT (the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy).  They bill themselves as the “Professional Body for Nutritional Therapists”. Nutritional therapists are those fantasists who believe you can cure any ill by buying some supplement pills. Their standards can be judged by, for example, BANT ethics code: BANT nutritional therapists are allowed to earn commission from selling pills and tests.

It seems Dr Ann Walker may have joined the wrong society.

Follow-up

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31 Responses to Dr Ann Walker removed from Register of Nutritionists

  • When I knew Ann Walker many years ago she was a serious nutrition scientist. I am sorry she has now gone off the acceptable rails, but delighted to learn that the Nutriton Society is acting responsibly.

  • I wonder if Dr. Walker has thought of registering with the CNHC instead? And if they would accept her registration?

  • I could see no reference to Dr Ann Walker on the Nutriprofile web site so she may have left that particular organisation. She would seem to have a right of appeal.

  • What would be the impact of being removed from a “Voluntary Register of Nutritionists”?

  • Well, I suppose alternative practitioners are, on the whole, tarred with the same brush as orthodox ones, many of whom are just legitimised cowboys. And the herb shops akin to the pharmaceutical companies, and so on …and so on…..
    Oh, for a bit of niceness in the world!

  • thiona
    It is true that some pharmaceutical companies have used tactics similar to those of the alternative industry. In fact sometimes the former own the latter. To be fair, though, at least some of the products of Pharma work, whereas it seems that very few of the products of the latter work, and alties spend very little on research either.

    Yes, we could do with a bit more niceness. But it isn’t long ago that we had slavery and children in the coal pits. I’m an optimist – nobody ever said life would be fair, but bit by bit we seem to improve things (admittedly with occasional setbacks, like Bush and Blair)

  • @Mojo
    The impact would simply be that she is no longer able to advertise herself as a member of that society or use their logo. There is no statutory requirement of definition of what a nutritionist is (in comparison to a dietician who is statutorily regulated). So she can continue to practise, she just can’t portray herself as a member of this society. Whether this impacts her practise I couldn’t say.

  • Not relevant to this post at all but it might just sneak in under niceness for thiona and is another reason for David to be optimistic. Good news from Zambia about a remarkable decrease in malaria deaths:

    “…The World Health Organization (WHO) noted that largely thanks to a huge increase in the distribution of mosquito nets over two years, malaria mortality rates in Zambia have been cut by 66 per cent, surpassing its 2010 Roll Back Malaria target of more than 50 per cent.

    “This is a remarkable achievement and a tribute to the hard work and commitment of the Ministry of Health of Zambia and its partners to combat malaria,” said Luís Gomes Sambo, WHO Regional Director for Africa. …”

    Simple, science-based measure saves lots of lives.

  • Just a thought regarding the furore about Dr Walker. Does DC have any thoughts as to the professional ethics of reporting an interim decision of a professional body (the Register of Nutritionists) when the appeal that the Register is offering has not been heard? Will DC apologise if and when Dr Walker is re-instated? Will the publication in DC’s blog (lifted from the Register gazette -top article in this thread) prejudice a proper appeal, and cause damage to Dr Walker which could be the subject of litigation? Does the professional body itself not have the requirement for “sub judice” on matters pending an appeal? Can the Register make public its appeal procedure for all, including DC, to see and comment upon?

  • mike59bike
    I’m merely reporting what has been said in public (plus repeat of some things I said long ago). I don’t imagine that there is any ethical problem in doing that. If the appeal should succeed I shall certainly be interested to find out on what grounds the decision is made. And if the appeal should succeed I’ll report it. I certainly won’t apologise though. The trouble caused to me personally, and the trouble and expense that her actions caused to UCL. seem to me to be good reason for her to apologise, not me.

    While we are on the subject of ethics, I’d be interested to hear from mike59bike about what he thinks about the ethics of Nutriprofile. I’d also like to hear your opinion about the ethics of making sales on the basis of words like “blood cleanser”. If you think that word is not ‘gobbledygook’, perhaps you could explain to the world what it means. Dr Walker has never done that.

  • I am sure that you will all be pleased to know that the UKVRN have dropped the case against Ann Walker. She has been reinstated onto the Register and the offending, piece outlining the Fitness to Practice panel deliberations at the Hearing, which were published prematurely, have been removed from the website.
    So, due process has been followed, the UKVRN has done its job and her reputation has been restored.
    I think that a dialysis machine fits the definition of a “blood cleanser”.

  • Well well. The the original report said

    “The Panel accepted the allegation of impaired fitness to practice. Mindful of its duty to protect the public, it recommended that Dr Walker be removed from the register. Dr Walker has a right of appeal.”.

    Did she win the appeal? I can find no report about that.

    I notice that Ann walker’s name no longer seems to appear on the Nutiiprofile web site, and the logo of University of Reading is still gone (leaving an empty placeholder), but the Univesrity of Reading is still mentioned in the blurb.

  • Can’t comment on that. Reading could ask for their name to be removed if it is being used as an advertising puff. However, to put this in context, the wbsite clearly states
    “Acknowledgement to the Hugh Sinclair Unit of Human Nutrition, University of Reading, for their work on the development of the web-based version of the food frequency questionnaire (FFQ).”
    Obviously someone in our Centre developed the FFQ and credit where credit is due. FFQ seem to be the 3rd most reliable tool (out of 4!) for determining dietary intake
    S. A. Bingham. Urine nitrogen as a biomarker for the validation of dietary protein intake. J.Nutr. 133 Suppl 3:921S-924S, 2003.
    There are many variants and they are very commonly used and I don’t think that this acknowledgement really means a great deal. If Reading is really upset about this then they could insist that the acknowledgement is taken off the website.
    Just for the sake of clarity, georgeboy is also

    Dr George Grimble
    Principle Teaching Fellow
    Division of Medicine
    UCL Centre for Gastroenterology and Nutrition
    Windeyer Institute
    London W1T 4JF

    Reader in Clinical Nutrition
    Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences
    University of Reading
    Reading RG6 6AP

    Fraternal greetings.

    George Grimble

  • Thanks for that clarification. Did you try filling in the Nutriprofile questionnaire yourself? It would be interesting to know if you entered what you think is a perfect diet, whether you still get recommended to buy a lot of supplements from them. That is certainly what happened when we first tried it.

    Let us know the result if you try it.

  • David
    If I have time, I might be tempted to do that. The problem with FFQ is that they are not very accurate, rather indicative. Sheila Bingham’s paper makes that clear, and they are best used in surveys. They are not really appropriate for detailed personalised dietary analysis and would probably all highlight some deficiencies. Diet diaries which our students keep show this every year. After all, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey has shown that in subgroups of the population. No surprise there and not a huge problem but significant.
    The real problem is that in “nutrition”, everyone is selling something. The blurb for commercial supplements, slimming diets, slimming aids & etc. is pretty parasitic on good controlled science and makes claims just short of medical claims. So if the FFQ shows a deficiency then a product can be recommended. The other issue is that the public seems to have an insatiable appetite for nutritional advice and almost every academic nutritionists has been asked at one time or another for advice and we trot out the mantra “ask a dietitian”. I sympathise with your experience with the telephone-stalker, we are often subject to “nutri-rants” from time to time by the more fixated conspiracy theorists.
    Happy to meet up any time.
    Kind regards

    George

  • If you want a good example of the type of misreporting of nutritional science then try this.

    Health Warning: Exercise Makes You Fat

    Cheers

    George

  • George ma’ boy,

    Good to see you always rallying to the cause of Reading University – Always seem to see you talking about it whenever/wherever I see your posts. However, I have to say I’m a little surprised that you never seem to mention your new course at UCL – after all, directing your own course at such a institute is definitely something be proud of. Having said that of couse, I’m not sure I’d mention something that’s in such dire state either… stick to the good stuff eh?

    From what I hear from your peers at uCL, there probably wont be a course for too much longer so, best keep it under-wraps before you embarrass yourself…! Maybe if you weren’t always so keen to meet everyone and anyone you want to add to your “contacts” list, you might have more time to put into your brand new course that’s going so shamefully ‘down the pan’…

    Just a thought…

  • George- is it reasonable for you to so doggedly defend Walker’s position when you yourself have not bothered to become registered. Why feel so strongly about an issue that you don’t rate highly enough to pursue for yourself. It is disappointing that Walker has been reinstated.

  • I haven’t looked at this since my last post in September ’09. Ann Walker was a colleague at Reading and needed some support. Ann’s OK and didn’t deserve the flak she got.

  • @George Grimble
    After all the trouble she caused me, I can’t agree. Do you think that the term “blood cleanser” means something, or do you, like me, think it is gobbledygook? It was that distinction which caused a great deal of trouble for both me and for UCL.

  • David, I was sorry you had so much trouble. As said in an earlier post, a dialysis machine is an effective blood cleanser – and so are macrophages. I don’t know of any evidence that dietary components “clean the blood”. What exactly is being cleaned?

  • Well exactly. But all those legal letters from Ann Walker, or her husband, were caused because I had said that it was gobbledygook to describe red clover as a blood cleanser. You don’t seem to disagree with that description, so I’m not sure which side you are on.

    I don’t think that ‘blood cleanser’ is a very useful description of a dialysis machine or of a macrophage. As the excellent Michael Quinion pointed out in the wake of this affair, it is a term used only by quacks throughout the ages.

    As so often with attacks of this sort it misfired badly. After some publicity from Ben Goldacre, I was invited by the provost to return to UCL’s server (though I didn’t) and the result was a vast increase in readership for this blog. Many people who had never heard of Ann Walker learned something that they would not have known if she hadn’t resorted to legal intimidation to shut me up, rather than producing some evidence. The internet is truly a wonderful thing.

  • @George Grimble

    How often do nutritionists use dialysis as a treatment?

  • Mojo,
    This sounds promising – like the start of a joke. Renal and ICU dietitians will deal with patients on dialysis. Sorry, the punchline wasn’t very funny.

  • David,
    I don’t use the word goobledygook and in this case I’m not on anyone’s “side”. If you are referring to the general question about efficacy of the many supplements which are sold OTC then in my view it is a case of caveat emptor. In the single area of weight-loss diets there is more rubbish talked and more needless money extracted from desperate people than almost any other area of nutrition. That’s something which can be tested by the scientific method and although I do give a lecture of “fad” diets, which keeps me amused, I do stick to the evidence for efficacy. After all, that’s what we are trying to teach our students to do.
    Kind regards
    George

  • *This is not about David’s travails but picks up on the_exposer’s rather uncharitable comments above.
    The course has gone from strength to strength and we very proud of what we have achieved with the help of 140 MSc students (it has to be said). It is some time since Professor Jack Drummond flew the flag for nutrition at UCL. What we have done is to reinvent a focus for this at UCL and we now cover the “dark side”, that is people who are losing or gaining weight yet can’t help it. In addition, we run a MSc in Eating Disorders and Clinical Nutrition which has to be a first.
    So whoever you are, rest assured that your darkest fears have not been realised.

  • @George Grimble

    I’m glad that your course is now doing well.  

    I guess that it has improved since 2009, when a complaint was made about the course. Unfortunately, like most big institutions, UCL handled her complaint both slowly and defensively,  Two years after the first complaint, UCL offered to return her £3,300 fees (as reported in Times Higher Education).  Dr Chan felt this was inadequate, and sent all  the detailed records that she’d kept to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA). Eventually, in September 2012, they produced their final report.  It was less than complimentary about either the course (as it was in 2009), or about UCL’s handling of the complaint.  I believe she accepted the offer of £8.300 in compensation that was recommended by the OIA.

  • *David. It is interesting that when I had asked you to remove the scurrilous ad hominem comments from “the_exposer” (above) you declined on the grounds that it was all part of the rough and tumble of debate. We still don’t know who this anonymous weasel is, whereas people like you and I are not afraid to write under our own names.

    This is my first sight of the OIA Complaint Outcome. It tells one side of the story and neither I nor my colleague, Professor Forbes have been able to respond to the public airing of several false claims. The problems with the programme were rectified swiftly by the Division of Medicine.

  • @George Grimble

    The reason that I decided to post the OIA outcome was because of your refusal to condemn the gross scams like Nutriprofile and red clover gobbledygook.  You say

    I don’t use the word goobledygook and in this case I’m not on anyone’s “side””

    You should be. 

  • Dear David,

     

    Do you really think I have time to join the fray over every
    nutritional scam which is out there? OK, we dealt with detox diets on Channel
    4’s “Food Hospital” and that reached an audience of millions.

    If you read what I wrote you will see that I don’t approve
    of these products.

    Kelly Brownell from Yale puts it nicely: “When I get calls
    about the latest diet fad, I imagine a trick birthday cake candle that keeps
    lighting up  and we have to keep blowing
    it out”

    We need a lot of puff then and you clearly have more than
    me! You are more than welcome to come along to our MSc lectures on “Fad diets”.

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