The Legitimacy Diet, Part 2 – Once More into the Fridge

In the first part of this series, we took a look at several of the organizations that confer non-established accreditation on graduates of the various nutritionist programs in Canada. We saw how the schools themselves will invent official-sounding organizations to hand out official-sounding designations for what are essentially local diplomas. We saw how third parties that seem to do little more than cash cheques are preying on graduates to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and how they make the schools complicit by playing to their financial interests. We saw how even the organizations that that provide higher levels of services — lobbying, research, education — still seem to manage to funnel more dollars to the schools. They’re certainly not about protecting the patient, relying on the fallacy that natural means safe to justify their lack of even a basic complaint process.

We’ll continue that exploration today, before turning our attention to what these programs actually teach — and what they should teach — in the final instalment tomorrow.

Beedle dee, dee dee dee: two ladies (yes, again)

In Part I, we saw how the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition (CSNN) left behind the IONC, a lucrative accrediting association run out of a PO Box by two women in Brantford, Ontario, to promote CAHNPro, an equally lucrative accrediting association run out of CSNN’s offices by CSNN’s graduates.   Seems this is a well worn narrative — the CSNN website also fails to promote the fact that their program qualifies for the Natural Nutritional Coach and Practitioner (NNCP) and Registered Nutritional Therapist (RNT) designations of the Canadian Association of Natural Nutrition Practitioners (CANNP).

Founded by Wendy Gibson and Beth Gorbet, whose smiling pictures are strangely omnipresent on the site, CANNP seems eerily similar to the IONC.  A newsletter, a little light lobbying, a liability insurance program, and an application form. As value for money goes, however, the CANNP does seem to have a bit of an edge on IONC — membership is slightly cheaper, and they include access to an online natural products database and discounts on a variety of products. All they need to do is throw in the rust coating and I’m sold…

The Many Faces of CANNP

To be fair, in talking to Ms. Gibson, I found her to be quite friendly and open, and I didn’t sense any particular malintent — she clearly believes in what she’s doing. Of any of the organizations I talked to, her’s seems to be the one with the fewest potential financial conflicts. While the NNCP designation costs $250, plus a $50 kicker for the RNT upgrade, they’ve only got 200 members, so it’s hardly a cash cow that these photogenic gal pals have created. Maybe it’s just a matter of time before they get there, but I did believe her story that she and Ms. Gorbet started the organization largely in response to the failings of the IONC — to do what they were supposed to do but never seemed to.

She was more even-handed on CAHNPro, indicating that the main difference, besides the connection to CSNN, was their approach to regulation. CAHNPro is pushing for regulation but CANNP is opposed to it, because it means that many of the nutritionists practicing today won’t be able to practice anymore without upgrading their training.

This was perhaps the most disappointing part of the discussion — her willingness to accommodate lower training standards in order to keep more people “in the boat.” Well that, and her echoing of the common refrain on patient protection — that it’s a liability insurance issue and that “the basis of what we do as holistic nutritionists is generally not things that would injure or cause harm.”

Board to Tears

If you’re already confused by all the acronyms, conflicts, and political bun fights — and you have every reason to be — then hold onto your seats. So far, we’ve only explored those organizations at the top of the food chain — the ones that actually purport to do anything, and are recognized by the more established schools in the field (CSNN, IHN, Edison). But there’s a whole other tier of bottom feeders we’re about to dip into — organizations that barely keep up the pretense of being professional associations. Welcome to the wide, wild world of board certification.

In Canada, there are three separate examining boards that attempt to label nutritionists “Board Certified”:

  • The Canadian Examining Board of Health Care Practitioners (CEBHCP);
  • The Examining Board of Natural Medicine Practitioners Canada (EBNMP); and
  • The Board of Natural Medicine Doctors and Practitioners-North America (BNMDP-NA)

The CEBHCP of Danforth Avenue in Toronto gives out 40 (!) designations in all manner of CAM fields, including Certified Biofeedback Technician, Aesthetic Surgery and Hair Transplant Therapist, and Aromatherapy Health Practitioner. Nutritionists can apply for the RNC* — Registered Nutritional Counselor — by filling out a really poorly formatted application and attaching (i) a diploma from Alive Academy in Richmond, BC or the College of Holistic Studies in Milton or Brooklin, Ontario, (ii) two passport sized photos, and (iii) a nominal cheque for $450.

They’re going to need that money too, to defend themselves from prosecution under Ontario’s Regulated Health Professions Act for misusing protected designations. Their board members are being prosecuted as well, including osteopath, acupuncturist, homeopath and CEBHCP founder Matthias Nauts, who runs his private practice out of the same office on Danforth.

Now in some industries, such a prosecution would make Dr. Nauts** a pariah. In this industry, it qualifies him not only to keep running the CEBHCP, but also to work with his own competition — the EBNMP.

The EBNMP of Midland Avenue in Toronto gives out 6 designations, though their most successful ones are their RAP (Registered Acupuncture Practitioner) and DNM (Doctorate of Natural Medicine). Collectively, those two have about 330 members. Their Registered Nutritional Medicine Practitioner (RNMP) designation is slightly less popular, clocking in at a grand total of seven. Ouch.

Funny thing is, that Dr. Nauts’ name is all over the EBNMP’s public documents, where he’s listed as an advisor. He’s also a DNM in good standing — which is strange for someone who gives out 40 designations of his own.

But the bizarre interconnections don’t end there. Nauts sits on the board of the General Osteopathic Council of Canada (GOCC***) with June Ann Kelly, President and co-founder of the EBNMP, who also runs Toronto’s New Earth College. New Earth College is of course accredited by the EBNMP, as is Living Energy, the school run by EBNMP board member Radka Ruzicka

You following? There’s more.

Allan Austin: "Look deep into my eyes while I fuck with your spine"

Kelly was an early collaborator of the devastatingly handsome Allan Austin, chiropractor and inventor of the Trigenics system of functional neurology (basically, the unholy marriage of applied kinesiology and chiropractic). Austin — who shamelessly touts his celebrity client list (Farah Fawcett!! Rock Voisine!! Gandalf!!) — is a board member of the EBNMP as well, and the Trigenics office is the headquarters of the World Board of Natural Medicine (WBNM), a new-ish umbrella organization with a logo nearly identical to the EBNMP and same taste in serifed fonts as the EBNMP, the GOCC, and New Earth College. The EBNMP has been transferring its trademarks, including the RNMP designation for nutritionists, to the WBNM, in an obvious attempt at world domination by the Rand Corporation in conjunction with the saucer people, under the supervision of the reverse vampires.

OK, I cribbed that last bit from Milhouse Van Houten, but it’s pretty clear that the whole thing’s an incestuous mess of mutual-affirmation. So let’s hope the third examining board — the BNMDP-NA — can get us out of the rabbit hole. Let’s really get to know them, starting with their history:

The Examining Board of Natural Medicine Practitioners known as “EBNMP” was established in 1998 in Ontario, Canada by its founder and Past President, Dr. Sheila McKenzie to satisfy the demand for a registry for Natural Medicine Doctors and Practitioners. In 2003, the organization was re-named the Examining Board of Natural Medicine Practitioners-North America “EBNMP-NA,” remaining a corporation constituted under the laws of Ontario. In July 2006, the organization registered federally as a non-profit corporation in both the United States and Canada. Its sub-affiliated boards are responsible for the administration of clinical competency examinations.

Oh dear. So if I’m following this, the third board appears to be a splinter of the second — the result of a split between the co-founders that left each with a similarly named corporate entity — one took the EBNMP and the other took the EBNMP-NA and rebranded it BNMDP-NA. This internecine bun fight was embarassingly public, with the EBNMP even issuing an open letter to its members warning them that the EBNMP-NA was representing themselves the “true” EBNMP in order to poach members:

We must stress that this act is unethical and misleading to the general public and should you be contacted by anyone representing this board (EBNMP-NA) offering an upgraded membership, you should guide yourself accordingly.

Yikes. But the battle wasn’t just over members — it was over their main (non-nutritionist) designation as well. The “D.N.M.” and “D.N.M. (Doctorate in Natural Medicine)” trademarks are both owned by the EBNMP, but the BNMDP-NA continues to use them with apparent impunity. This despite trying to register it themselves, and to register such variants as “NMD/DNM”, “DNM/WONMP”, and “(t)-DNM (Traditional Docturate In Nature’s Medicine” but abandoning each application after receiving the examiner’s first report. In the trademark filing process, that’s often where insurmountable trademark conflicts (like someone else owning the mark) are identified.

Well Enough of That

I trust you’re as happy as I am to leave this snake pit. After all, what does any of this matter to us, the consumer? Why should we care whether the accrediting organizations are dysfunctional and at each other’s throats, or whether they’re selling the practitioners a bill of goods? If the original training a nutritionist received at their school is solid, it really shouldn’t matter which silly designation they naively paid for after graduation, right?

If only it were so. Aside from the fact that the designations are meant to be just as impressive, and persuasive, to the consumer as to the practitioner, the fact is that not all nutritionists are created equal. Only one designation ensures that the practitioner received the science-based training required to provide competent, science-based care — and we’ll look at them in Part 3 tomorrow.  [Read Part 3]

Photo courtesy of Masahiro Ihara via Flickr under Creative Commons.


* As a confusing aside — the RNC from the CEBHCP is different from the RNC given out in the States by the American Association of Nutrition Consultants, an organization that Quackwatch has covered in the past. More confusing still, the AANC’s RNC is also called a CNC.

** I concede he’s a doctor because of his PhD

*** The training and accreditation of non-physician osteopaths in Canada is frighteningly similar to that of nutritionists — perhaps a topic for a future article.

7 Responses to “The Legitimacy Diet, Part 2 – Once More into the Fridge”

  1. Chantal says:

    You are spreading fasle information as far as the RHN qualifications form CSNN is concern, I will soon graduate from CSNN as a RHN, for you information our program contained courses on human biology, diabetes and hypoglycemia,very detailed courses on the digestive system, courses on allergies , course on various diseases and their causes….just to name a few. Perhaps you need to inform yourself better on what we learn before making public statement stating that we learn aromatherapy, and other bogus classes like that.
    I will be happy to show you my course contents, and show you how detailed the information we learn is, from there you will be well equipted to make an informed and intelligent statement on our prefession. Oh one more thing, all the meds on the market are science based and they are killing thousands a year……

    • Kim Hebert says:

      Careful. There are very different meanings behind “you are mistaken” and “you are spreading false information”…

      Meds are killing thousands a year? Care to provide some context or a smidgen of evidence for so bold, yet vague, a statement? Also what would that have to do with nutrition course curriculums?

    • Dianne Sousa says:


      After perusing through CSNN’s website, I see that after you have been given your RHN dpiloma, you gain “automatic entrance into CSNN’s Advanced Holistic Nutrition program”. Exciting.

      One of the courses that you can use towards this diploma is “Aromatherapy and Bach Flower Remedies”. The second part of the course “introduces aromatherapy and the many therapeutic uses of essential oils. It explains the importance of using high quality oils as well as various methods of application. Students will become familiar with how to treat numerous health conditions, as well as fun and inexpensive ways to create personal body and hair care products.” I can immediately see how this is considered “advanced holistic nutrition”. Apparently you can eat through your nose now.

      Other advanced courses are described here:

      The course that really reassures me about the competience of the RHN to practice “Advanced Holistic Nutrition” is “Professional Self Development” described like this:

      “What makes a person a successful alternative health practitioner? Is it solely the development of a sound resume and/or business plan or is there more to it than that? This workshop addresses the “more to it than that” aspect of professional development. It addresses personal limitations, therapeutic communications and ethics – the relational aspects of a practice. In order to be successful practitioners, to find the place where our joy meets the world’s need, we have to continually work on ourselves – to become more aware – to develop a self that can be in right relationship with others. That is what this workshop is dedicated to doing – fostering self development and right relationship.”

      Let me know when your joy meets the world’s need and don’t forget to bring your evidence.

    • Amanda says:

      I would agree that you are getting some training, which is hopefully better than nothing. But I think that it is important to keep in mind that a registered dietitian attends an accredited university for 5 years in order to practice in Canada. There are also provincial and national regulatory bodies that oversee dietetic practice. This keeps universities and registered dietitians in check and ensures universities are teaching accurate information. There are no regulatory bodies or safe guards in place for the RNH designation. In fact, anyone can call themselves registered holistic nutrition, no schooling required. The course you are taking may seem credible, but I’d be careful and ask some tough questions to management. I’m curious, are the courses taught by RDs or RNHs?

  2. Dave Bailey says:

    Quote from comedian Dara O Brian – “‘Nutritionist’ is not a legally protected term. ‘Dietition’ is the legally protected term. ‘Dietition’ is like ‘dentist’, ‘nutritionist’ is like ‘toothyologist’.”

  3. Rick Jemmett says:

    Erik has done an admirable job making sense of this muck. As the centerpiece of this ethical clusterfuck, Mathias Nauts is certainly worth further attention. Allow me to add some interesting tidbits. Stay with me; this is a little like “Around the world in 80 Days…

    Nauts is also affiliated with something called the North American School of Podology (NASP), another Toronto outfit engaging in dubious ‘academic’ activities. NASP provides a 20 day course in ‘advanced’ toenail trimming and hands out a BSc (Pod) to those who complete their training. Turns out this ‘degree’ is conferred through an unaccredited Sri Lankan ‘school’, The Open International University for Complementary Medicines (OIUCM). The OIUCM is not listed as a recognized, degree granting institution by any official Sri Lankan post secondary educational department; international groups which provide similar data also do not list OIUCM as a legitimate Sri Lankan school.

    One of Nauts’ colleagues at his Canadian Examining Board of Health Care Practitioners (CEBHCP) is Krista Vryenhoek, a February 2010 graduate of NASP. In January 2010, Ms Vryenhoek held only a community college diploma as a rehabilitation assistant. But by November 2010, she was listed as a member of Nauts’ board of directors at CEBHCP, and was described as having a PhD, a BSc, as well as a host of other illegitimate degrees and credentials. Both her BSc and her PhD arrived in the mail from OIUCM in Sri Lanka. Ms Vryenhoek apparently ‘earned’ the PhD for having studied acupuncture with Nauts for 6 months, from her home in BC. Nice work if you can get it! To bring her health care training full-circle, she is currently studying medicine at – you guessed it – a Caribbean medical school. Makes one wonder, if Vryenhoek’s PhD came from OIUCM, where did Nauts’ “PhD” come from?

    Complementary & Alternative Medicine is a questionable enough vocation given the entirely goofy premises upon which they are based. Still, one would like to think the degrees and credentials CAM practitioners claim for themselves are bonafide. Evidently, nautsomuch.


  1. [...] Terrifying as it may be, we haven’t yet gotten to the darkest regions of this strange world we’re exploring, so I’ll pick up where I left off in the second instalment tomorrow. Then, in Part 3, we’ll compare these various flavours of nutritionist with their science-based alternative: the Dietitian.   [Read Part 2] [...]

  • Erik Davis

    Erik is a technology professional based in Toronto, focused on the intersection of the internet and the traditional media and telecommunications sectors. A reluctant blogger, he was inspired by the great work Skeptic North has done to combat misinformation and shoddy science reporting in the Canadian media, and in the public at large. Erik has a particular interest in critical reasoning, and in understanding why there’s so little of it in the public discourse. You can follow Erik's occasional 140 character musings @erikjdavis