Blog Post

Functional Diagnostic Nutrition: A Cautionary Tale

AV asks: "Have you heard of something called Functional Diagnostic Nutrition? If so, is this program compatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church?"

Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN) is the brainchild of Reed Davis who has no background in medicine. It claims to be related to the field of functional medicine which is considered to be an alternative or pseudoscience which focuses on a personalized approach to medicine in which a client’s health is determined through diagnostic tests.

In the FDN Self Care plan, clients are tested for immune function, digestion, detoxification, and hormones. Depending on the results, they are treated with a variety of natural protocols and lifestyle changes. Clients work with a Health Coach who is trained in FDN and who acts as a kind of “health detective” to discover the root cause of a client’s ailment.

The FDNPlan is basically a four-step program that begins with self lab tests which require the individual to submit samples (urine, hair, etc.) to a lab. The results are then sent to the Health Coach who conducts an interpretation session with the client. The Coach then creates a health plan based on the test results and the client’s history. The two then work together to help the client integrate the plan into their lifestyle.

This all sounds very good until you begin to dig beneath the surface.

For starters, there are no scientific studies of FDN offered on the website (or anywhere else that I could find) to back up any of its claims. Only customer testimonials are provided.

I became even more concerned when I delved into the background of the founder, Davis. For example, he claims to be a Nutritional Therapist but he achieved his certification through the International Foundation for Nutrition and Health.This organization is dedicated to promoting the work of an inventor known as Dr. Royal Lee who seems to have spent the better part of his career in trouble with the Food and Drug Administration for making false claims about phony products.

According to his LinkedIn page, Reed is the president of an organization called AFDNP, Inc. of Las Vegas, Nevada. A company by the same name, but formerly located in Poway, California, was fined $100,000 for operating a school without approval of the state's Bureau for Private Post-Secondary Education. These documents reveal that AFDNP was charging $4995 for their Functional Diagnostic Nutrition course.

Nutritionist Abby Langer has written an extensive critique outlining the problems with some functional medical practitioners that consumers - especially those pursuing natural remedies - need to be aware of. 

First, many of these practitioners are not well-trained and make erroneous claims such as how "leaky gut" releases toxins into the body (it doesn't), and diagnose conditions that don't exist such as estrogen dominance, adrenal fatique, and heavy metal toxicity, then charge money to treat them. 

They also employ tests such as the IgG test for food sensitivity which is not recognized by any allergy or immunology society in the developed world. Hair testing for metal toxicity is not considered reliable, and the DUTCH test for hormone metabolites "gives us nothing we can’t get from a conventional lab test," Langer states.

Her advice? "Don’t assume that just because something is ‘natural,’ or ‘individualized,’ that it’s superior. Don’t believe that because someone spends an hour with you instead of 15 minutes, that their treatment is superior. Both good and bad practitioners exist in every corner of the healthcare world. It’s our job to educate ourselves on how to choose the allies who are best for us."

As for how compatible this is with Catholic teaching, we are morally obligated to use “ordinary means” (science-based medicine) to treat any life-threatening (heart disease, diabetes, etc.) or contagious. Relying on untested methods such as FDN rather than on established science for anything serious would not be in accord with our faith because this would be tantamount to engaging in “superstitious medicine”.

If you are in need of nutritional counseling, my suggestion would be to enlist the services of a properly trained nutritionist (RDs or RDNs) and avoid anyone who engages in alternative medicine. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the oldest and largest association of food and nutrition experts in the U.S., has a useful search tool on its site to help you locate a nutritionist in your area.

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