The National Education Association, the nation's largest teachers union, has said "yes" to moulah made on diets that say "no" to many fruits and vegetables.
Atkins announced that it was joining forces with the National Education Association to educate children about nutrition, in part by sponsoring a school health Web site.
Or, as Greg Toppo put it so well in his USA Today account of the deal: "The folks who brought back three-egg omelets and triple cheeseburgers want to teach your kids a thing or two about health, nutrition and exercise."
When more than half of kids go without fruit on any given day, and childhood obesity has made this generation the first with a shorter life expectancy than their parents, what kids should be learning is that a diet low in saturated and trans fats and rich in fruits and vegetables is the foundation for preventing disease and maintaining a healthy weight.
Instead, they'll receive a "nutrition" message bankrolled by dollars earned selling a high-fat, low-fruit diet. Atkins claims it only wants to provide the NEA with "the latest research and information available on controlled-carbohydrate nutrition."
Really? Do you suppose that will include the research just published in The Lancet regarding the battery of negative side-effects - headaches, muscle fatigue, foul breath, constipation - suffered by Atkins dieters? What about the recent MIT research that suggests that low-carb dieting can cause serotonin levels to plummet? Or the Mayo Clinic survey linking a marked increase in saturated fat intake over the past five years with the Atkins craze? I don't think so.
If the Atkins folks thought that using educators to carry their low-carb message would be easy, then they were in for a rude awakening. The Partnership for Essential Nutrition - a coalition of consumer, nutrition and public health groups - has launched a letter-writing campaign to demand the immediate cancellation of the NEA-Atkins deal. The partnership warned that "there are very real dangers to children if they were to adopt a low-carb diet because the brain requires 130 grams of glucose a day for normal functioning, a quantity of carbohydrates that even the maintenance level of the Atkins diet does not deliver."
Sad to say, the NEA gets a big fat "F" when it comes to taking a responsible stand on children's nutritional needs, though we'll give 'em a bright red "A" for Atkins when it comes to irresponsibly taking money made on diets that disregard such needs.
But maybe the unions aren't so much irresponsible as indifferent. As Albert Shanker, the late, great crusader for teachers' labor rights once observed: "I'll start representing kids when kids start paying union dues." Which raises the question once again: Just whose interests is the NEA representing?