NASM CNC Chapter 22: Nutrition Hot topics and Controversies

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    Chapter Goals:

    • Know the complex and controversial topics in nutrition that are held in the fitness industry.
    • Discuss the evidence based strategies and their use for supporting claims for different dieting fads.
    • Discuss the education of clients on trends in nutrition for the facilitation of making healthy decisions.

    Introduction to Nutrition Hot Topics and Controversies

    The modern world is always changing, and since that is true, so is the science as we get new information and refine the old. The only bad thing with having so much info, and also having access to all of this with the internet, is that there tends to be a lot of misinformation for us to get through. The purpose for us learning these hot topics in nutrition is to help our clients by giving evidence based conclusions on the ones they encounter and bring to you for questions. 

    Organic vs. Conventional

    The market for organic food has had some big increases lately, and this is driven by the perception by consumers that the organic foods are superior in health to the conventional foods. There is a lot of evidence looking into this, and it is important for nutrition coaches to have a good understanding of everything. Reference the USDA website to find the recent research data.


    The main difference in conventional and organic is the reliance on pesticides or the more conventional methods. Organic produce has four times less pesticide residue than the conventional produce does. This can be a major health benefit for pregnant women, children and infants that are developing. Switching to organic reduces the biomarkers of pesticides in 5 – 7 days significantly. 

    Switching from conventional to organic has been shown to increase the intake of polyphenols equal to 1 – 2 servings of fruits and veggies without additional energy taken in. 

    Organic is going to be the slightly better option just due to the low levels of pesticides or safer pesticides used, and the higher levels of those secondary metabolites. 

    Meats, Milk, and Eggs

    Organic meat, milk, and eggs come from the livestock that is raised on land that is certified to be organic, they are fed food that is 100% organic, raised without the use of antibiotics, hormones, or any animal by-products. Organic livestock has clearly been less exposed to environmental toxicants like the pesticides and pollutants. It has not been thoroughly researched as to how much of an effect this has on the body, but it is around the same as air pollution and other toxicants we take in. 

    Organic meats are going to be much higher in their omega-3 amounts than the conventional ones. The other nutrients do not have a huge difference when we compare them. 

    All in all, the animals raised organically will live a better life than the conventional ones, but this results in very little difference in the meat, milk, and eggs they give us. 

    Grass-Fed and Pasture-Raised

    These have come up more lately. These environments more closely resemble how these animals would live in the wild, and thus is even more organic if you think about it. These are driven by even more thoughts of animal welfare and healthfulness. 


    The organic standards are a step in the right direction for welfare of animals. Some of the rules set by the organic certification are really not living up to it enough, so these two types take it a tad further. The changes in feeding before the animals are killed actually has a significant impact on the organic raised animals. 

    The grass-fed and finished cattle have been shown to affect the fat content of the meat the most. So, this is something to take into account. 

    Milk and Eggs

    There is no difference resulting from milk in grass-fed cattle. 

    The eggs that are pasture raised have more omega-3 fatty acids and an increase in DHA. They also tend to have less omega-6 fatty acids. the pastured hens are seen to have more vitamin E and other bioactive compounds like the lutein and zeaxanthin. 

    Genetically Modified Organisms

    These are defined as the organisms that have their genetic material modified in any way that is not natural or through mating. They have been a huge conversation piece in the world since their entrance to the market in the 90s. the big debate mainly focuses on if the companies should have to label their products as GMOs, to which most companies put out for the public voluntarily. 

    Arguments in Favor of GMOs

    • Increases in crop yields
    • Their additional nutritional value
    • Food processing improvements

    One example is found in the addition of more beta-carotene into rice in order to give more vitamin A for developing countries. This is an obvious plus for those nations. 

    GM Potatoes were made to reduce the amount of acrylamide formed when cooked in high temperatures. This acrylamide is a very hazardous chemical made form the cooking of starches. 

    Potential Risks of GMOs

    • The expression of allergenic crop yields
    • Changes made in the concentrations of metabolites
    • Increases in the exposures to pesticides.

    Gluten-Free Diets

    Wheat entered our diets around 10,000 years ago as we relied more on the crops and less on hunting things. It then began to be a staple of our diets. But, some people are unable to tolerate wheat in their diet. These are people with wheat allergies, celiac disease, and then other sensitivities.

    The signs and symptoms of allergies and wheat diet problems are things such as eczema, asthma, nausea and even more severe symptoms like anaphylactic shock. In most cases, these will be diagnosed very early in life.

    Going Gluten Free

    The belief that exists is that gluten free is much heathier than things containing gluten, and because of this, the industry has seen a big growth. Many people have self-diagnosed themselves as having a gluten sensitivity. In reality, there is nothing special about dies that avoid gluten when we look at losing weight. There are also no actual performance benefits that result. This is purely a decision someone can make, but nothing results in a big difference one way or the other. 

    We do not require that wheat or gluten be in the diet, so it is something you can do without problems also. 

    High-Fructose Corn Syrup

    This is a sweetener that is made from enzymatic conversions of starch from corn into both glucose and fructose. It is the most used replacement for sucrose in the U.S. due to costing less and being very comparable in taste. 

    In a biochemical view, the difference is also subtle. 

    There is a solid reason for us to try to limit our sugars we add in our foods. This is more so true with beverages since those calories are digested quicker and what not. 

    The excess energy from these sugars that are taken in will result in storage in the form of fat. Thus, increasing our amount of fat in the body. 

    Nonnutritive Sweeteners

    These are the food additives that offer the joy of sugars minus the calories that come with it. These are taken from plants or synthetically made. We refer to these as artificial sweeteners. And of these, we have 6 artificial ones and two natural ones that are approved by the FDA for use in the food industry. 

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    Their use has gone up as people are trying to reduce their weight while also getting the satisfaction for their sweet tooth. Why have a soda with all of the calories, when you can have the diet soda and get zero calories. 

    It is important to take a look at these sweeteners and their role in common health problems that your clients may have. 

    Obesity and Weight Loss

    The studies have shown that people who have become obese then begin to intake more of these sweeteners. This is because people will compensate their intake of these sweeteners by believing that they can intake even more food. 


    The effects of these sweeteners and hunger appear to be benign and if anything, only the short term appetite is slightly affected. 

    Type 2 Diabetes and Glycemic Control

    The blood sugar and insulin level are not affected by NNS. But it has been found that their use chronically has been linked to having a worsened glycemic control.

    Detoxes and Cleanses

    These have historically been done through combining highly restrictive dieting and very expensive supplementation for more than a few weeks. They claim to purify and cleanse the body of the “toxins” sapping your health. Most of these programs are going to be gimmicks that give very little in terms of results. 

    We do not have a lot of information and research for these detox programs, and their only real results and benefits come from the extreme calorie restriction. 

    Detoxification Done Right

    We actually have the ability to detoxify our bodies already. This is because we do it every single day. Most toxins are metabolized in the liver and then put out through bile or kidneys. So, the idea of detoxing is not that crazy.


    This popular and growing trend is done so by taking the juice from the veggies and fruits and consuming these for 1 – 2 weeks. It is important to know how the body is affected by these juices and what makes up these juices. They are usually very high in sugar, even though they have such great nutrients in them. 

    NASM CNC Chapter 22: Nutrition Hot topics and Controversies 1
    NASM CNC Chapter 22: Nutrition Hot topics and Controversies 2
    NASM CNC Chapter 22: Nutrition Hot topics and Controversies 3

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