The Paleo diet has been gaining popularity in recent years, thanks to passionate followers who believe eating and living as our Paleolithic ancestors did can help them avoid modern-day ailments such as obesity and diabetes.
Among the outspoken devotees is Steve Cooksey, who has chronicled his transition from a 235-pound diabetic to a trim Paleo supporter on his website. He also encourages others to embrace the lifestyle – and that’s what landed him in trouble with the government.
Earlier this year, officials in North Carolina told him that it was illegal to provide nutrition counselling without a licence.
So he filed a First Amendment lawsuit.
According to The New York Times, his lawyers argued that Mr. Cooksey’s advice “ultimately amounts to recommendations about what to buy at the grocery store” and added that the state couldn’t “criminalize something as commonplace as advice about diet.”
The North Carolina Board of Dietetics/Nutrition has shot back at other claims made by Mr. Cooksey and his supporters, explaining in an online statement that it was not harassing him and that it never threatened to shut down his website or send him to jail.
The board’s mission, the rebuke stated, is “to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of North Carolina from harmful nutrition practice”
Charla M. Burill, the executive director of the state’s nutrition board, wrote to Mr. Cooksey in January, notifying him that a complaint had been filed about the advice he was giving on his website, the Times writes.
A week later, she sent him annotated excerpts from his website, pointing out examples of what she felt was unlawful advice, including this sentence: “I do suggest that your friend eat as I do and exercise the best they can.”
The Paleo diet – which includes eating the right balance of fruits, meat and vegetables – has yet to be widely accepted in the medical community, with some critics arguing that our ancestors were actually vegetarians.
But as NPR points out, this litigious fight goes beyond the pros and cons of a certain lifestyle, “raising questions about how speech should be regulated, and how blogging might blur the line between people sharing information and the expectation of medically sanctioned advice.”
What do you think? Should bloggers be able to give advice based on their experiences – or should that be left to the experts?