Paleo Diet Lawsuit Hits the New York Times; Can You Advise Your Friends on What to Eat Without Breaking the Law?

The Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law institute, is behind an important free speech lawsuit filed back in May, Cooksey v. Futrell. The case challenges the North Carolina's Board of Dietetics/Nutrition's attempts to censor Steve Cooksey, a blogger who believes, and writes about how, following the "paleo diet" (roughly, eating like a caveman, including no processed foods or grains) helped him cope with diabetes. Today the New York Times finally takes notice

Excerpts:

North Carolina law says that “assessing the nutritional needs of individuals and groups” without a license is a crime....

In her markup of Mr. Cooksey’s site, Ms. [Charla M.] Burill [executive director of the NC Board of Dietetics/Nutrition] underlined examples of unlawful advice, including this one: “I do suggest that your friend eat as I do and exercise the best they can.”

Mr. Cooksey reluctantly made the requested changes. Then he filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court in Charlotte, N.C., saying his First Amendment rights had been violated.

“Cooksey’s advice,” his lawyers wrote, “ultimately amounts to recommendations about what to buy at the grocery store — more steaks and avocados and less pasta, for example.”

“The First Amendment simply does not allow North Carolina to criminalize something as commonplace as advice about diet,” they added.....

In his lawsuit, Mr. Cooksey, a 51-year-old service manager at a medical equipment company, said that forbidding his “personal, ongoing, uncompensated mentorship of Karen Gale and other friends like her is an unconstitutional prohibition on something that Americans have done since the inception of the United States: share advice among friends, acquaintances, readers or family about what is the healthiest way to eat.”

Cooksey tells the Times he actually hopes for a first-round loss, so he can have an eventual Supreme Court decision friendly to his assertions that occupational licensing doesn't trump free speech.

IJ's Bob Ewing had a great piece in The Freeman explaining the case's genesis and the important liberties at stake. Excerpts:

It all started three years ago when an obese man from North Carolina was rushed to the hospital in a near diabetic coma and almost died. Steve Cooksey had been sick for some time. He slowly gained weight over the years, and by 2008 had developed episodic asthma, a chronic cough, and respiratory infections, and was on multiple medications. In February 2009, after being rushed to the hospital, Steve was diagnosed with Type-II diabetes. His doctors informed him he would need insulin and drugs for the rest of his life...

Steve did research on health and diabetes, much of it online. He learned that diabetes is a condition of elevated blood sugar, so he started eating foods that kept his blood sugar low, and he exercised regularly. Specifically, Steve adopted the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors, eschewing sugars, processed foods, and agricultural starches in favor of fresh veggies, fish, meats, eggs, and nuts. He lost 78 pounds, freed himself of drugs and doctors, and feels healthier than ever. In January 2010 Steve started a blog, Diabetes Warrior, to share his story and insights. He soon developed a large readership.

And why you should care, whether you want to go paleo or not:

Violating licensing law can lead to fines, court gag orders, and even jail. According to the government’s logic, countless websites, Internet forums, Facebook, and so much more where people share information and offer each other advice on topics such as diet, parenting, and pregnancy are illegal.

IJ's dedicated page for the case.

Past Reason coverage about Cooksey v. Futrell from me and Baylen Linneken.

Paleo-libertarian bonus: are grains to blame for the state as well as diabetes?

IJ's video promoting the case:

 

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  • John Thacker||

    The IJ making me proud of my donation to them. (I like their newsletters, but I'm less proud of the fundraising pitches for other organizations that I get as a result of the donation.)

  • ||

    It's too bad the NYT doesn't have comments on that article. I suspect they would be fun.

  • Tman||

    If by "fun" you mean "infuriatingly fascist further cementing my intuitions that Manhattan liberals are tyrannical douchebags" then yes, they would be "funn".

  • ||

    The impulse to control and the fear of eating fat go together nicely. I once told a table full of Manhattanites that I eat 8-12 eggs a day and caused jaws to drop. We would see a lot of that in the comments, and it would be delicious.

  • fried wylie||

    8-12 a day does seem like a lot of eggs.

    If I have omelettes for one meal, then egg drop soup for another, I can just barely manage 8.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    8-12 a day does seem like a lot of eggs.

    Low carb and high fat was how our ancestors ate for a couple million years.

    Soon after Hurricane Isabel, I did the Induction Phase for 8 months, I ate 3 to 5 eggs per meal, meaning on a really hungry day I might eat 15 eggs, most of them hard boiled and mixed with lots of butter, salt and pepper. My blood labs were better than when I was in high school.

  • Tman||

    I will say from a purely sociological standpoint they are a fascinating bunch of tyrannical douchebags.

  • Trespassers W||

    I can eat 50 eggs.

  • Delroy||

    Nobody can eat fifty eggs.

  • ||

    I can name that tune in one egg.

  • ||

    I think it's because the people who blindly accept the lipid hypothesis are the same people who tow the lion with all the received wisdom from Top Men who came up with the food pyramid.

  • ||

    I mean, how can you think you know better than someone who's been certified? There ought to be a law.

  • fried wylie||

    I mean, how can you think you know better than someone who's been certified? There ought to be a law.

    how many Drinks! is that? *consults drinking game rule book*

  • The Hammer||

    Just assume it's all the drinks.

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    Top Men who came up with the food pyramid.

    The "Top Man" who wrote the original guidelines was a writer with no experience whatever in the field of nutrition. No kidding.

  • cthorm||

    I'm not quite at the bloated state of a dozen/day, but my wife and I go through a 60-case of eggs every 5 days.

    Which gives me a moment to cheapskate. That 60 case of eggs has gone from around $5.99 to $8.99 at Costco in under a month.

  • ||

    I hope “assessing the alcoholic needs of individuals and groups” without a license isn't a crime, or else I'm gonna have to shut down my homebrewing blog.

  • ||

    And my in home rehab.

  • Raston Bot||

    ^quitter

  • ||

    I didn't say I was in rehab.

  • R C Dean||

    If it is, there's a lot of bartenders looking at hard time.

  • ||

    Customer: "I'm a big fan of Left Hand Milk Stout. Do you have anything like that?"

    Bartender: [shouting loudly] "I'm afraid I can't answer that, sir!"

    [Bartender puts Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass album on the record player and turns up the volume.]

    Bartender: [whispering to customer] "Meet me in the alley in five minutes."

    End scene.

  • ||

    I was somewhat underwhelmed by the Left Hand Milk Stout, and I like (and/or am) all of those things separately.

  • ||

    It's all right. Nothing to get excited about. I'm bored by expensive beer these days, anyway. "Not vile" is the sweet spot.

    Left Hand Path

  • SugarFree||

    Left Hand was pouring "black and tans" with Milk Stout and Sawtooth Ale at the local beer festival. They were better together than apart.

  • ||

    Because everything should be a beer thread, this was very good, except you can't get it in stores, anywhere, ever. FML.

  • ||

    That's pronounced "fellv" or something, isn't it? You mushmouthed South Africans make me sick.

  • SugarFree||

    Where's mah penguin, woman?

  • Trespassers W||

    I had a Norwegian (for God's sake) IPA last year that was one of the best beers I've ever tasted. Can't be found anywhere, don't remember what it's called anyway, so all you're left with is my memory of a flavor.

  • ||

    Right now price is being driven by so many factors other than actual quality. When I travel I seek out whatever's local, and I've probably found more average-priced, 5-7% beers that have really impressed me than the limited-release, 10% monsters that everybody goes ape-shit over. Occasionally something lives up to the hype, but I'm definitely over spending $10 on a 10-oz. bottle of Norwegian coffee stout (with all due respect to Trespasser W's IPA he liked).

  • ||

    Was the Left Hand Milk Stout on nitro or regular carbonation? If you're not a nitro person you should try a regular bottle (or vice versa). I think it's a pretty solid beer, though nothing I actively seek out.

  • Astra||

    I'm not sure why it has taken off some much compared to their other beers. Sawtooth is outstanding, one of the best beers produced in the U.S. Their small-scale releases (like Oktoberfest) are also great, but it helps to live a half mile away from the brewery to get those.

  • ||

    a North Carolina law says that "assessing the nutritional needs of individuals and groups" without a license is a crime....

    Does that mean I'd be violating the law in North Carolina for telling my daughter to eat her veggies at the dinner table?

  • fried wylie||

    In that case, your crime would fall under the child abuse statutes, but the short answer to your question is "yes".

  • Emmerson Biggins||

    If only North Carolina had worded the law so that anytime you give nutritional advice without a license you owe are dinged with a 1000% income tax, this would be a slam dunk for them.

  • Tman||

    What the hell happened to personal responsibility in this freaking country?

    "I read on a website to eat nuts and now I'm sick so it's THE WEBSITES FAULT FOR ME BEING SICK????"

    Jesus H. Christ in a chicken basket this stuff is depressingly terrible.

  • fried wylie||

    "I read on a website to eat nuts ..."

    That hypotheical person's penchant for gay porn seems unrelated to the whole dietary advice debate.

  • MJGreen||

    As far as I can tell, there is no victim here. Except the bureaucrat who feels she's not treated with the proper deference.

  • fried wylie||

    OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING TRUMPS EVERYTHING. HANG THAT MAN BY HIS NECK UNTIL HE IS NO LONGER CONSISTING OF LIFE PULSE!!!111ONEONEONE

    Also, SOMALIA!111!onetwo

  • ||

    "If your life got turned around due to a diet change, you didn't do that on your own. People say 'I'm a healthy person - it must be because I eat healthy.' Listen, if you are no longer have diabetes, you didn't beat that. Someone else made it happen."

  • fried wylie||

    if you are no longer have diabetes

    ALL YOUR DIABETUS ARE BELONG TO US.

  • Matrix||

    DIABETUS!!!!

  • Lord Humungus||

  • ||

    That is more like Diablobeetus.

  • SugarFree||

    You can have it.

  • fried wylie||

    *hot-potato's the diabeetus back to SF*

  • SugarFree||

    Dammit.

  • fried wylie||

    a big, steaming, starchy hot-potato.

  • AL Haines||

    I say the same thing about Gabby Douglas. She didn't win those medals on her own, somebody else made that happen...

  • MJGreen||

    You didn't build the roads you sprint on. Those weights you lift at the gym? You don't regulate weights and measures. The government does that.

    So hand over a sizable portion of your income.

  • Hyperion||

    Your income? What is this you speak of? That's not your income, you didn't earn that. What you meant to say is, just stop asking us to let you keep more of our revenue.

  • ||

    OMG?! Some valley girl just walked by my office? Talking on her phone? It must be, like, time for the kids to move back to school?

    Literally every sentence in a 2 minute story ended in rising intonation. Its really my fault for not wearing headphones, but my first instinct was to jump up and punch her in the throat.

  • Trespassers W||

    GOOOOD... let the hate flow through you...

  • ||

    Its not hate. Its my ears protecting themselves from violent assault. They have a right to stand their ground!

  • Lord Humungus||

    see the violence inherit in the system!

  • R C Dean||

    Yea, verily, violence is passed on from one generation to the next.

  • ||

    There are still valley girls? In wherever the fuck you are? (Texas?) I think it is just that teenagers are retarded and speak accordingly.

  • SugarFree||

    Like, ERMAHGERD!

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    My wife and daughters were showing me Pinterest, and I saw a whole "thing" of "ERMAHGARD!!!"

    I told them that it looked like LOLCATS, but not as funny, and that Pinterest scares me, and no, I will not sign up.

    And they were, like, "ERMAHGARRRRD! PINTEREST!!!"

  • SugarFree||

    Pinterest, the pink ghetto of social media.

  • ||

    Fuck, if one more person I know gets engaged and promptly (like, within a matter of hours) creates a wedding-themed Pinterest...

  • SugarFree||

    [leaves to go get bigamist engaged and sign up for pinterest]

  • Paul.||

    I've never heard of Pinterest until now. It looks like a gentrified myspace page. WTF is going on?

  • SugarFree||

    It's something like 97% female. My wife thinks it's silly, but explained that the appeal is because "every girl clipped stuff out of magazines, this is just the electronic way to do it."

  • Pound. Head. On. Desk.||

    I've never heard of Pinterest until now. It looks like a gentrified myspace page. WTF is going on?

    First look... Several gigabytes of robot puke from a 14-year-old girl?

  • ||

    I have been gone too long. I can't even hear in my mind's ear what that would sound like.

  • SugarFree||

    You are forgetting us. We are fading away.

  • ||

    This should help, womern.

  • ||

    That did help. Now I iz laughing.

  • SugarFree||

  • ||

    Tallahassee, FL. We have new 18 year olds every year.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Cooksey tells the Times he actually hopes for a first-round loss, so he can have an eventual Supreme Court decision friendly to his assertions that occupational licensing doesn't trump free speech.

    The International Olympic Committee hereby disqualifies Cooksey.

  • R C Dean||

    he actually hopes for a first-round loss,

    That's usually not hard to arrange.

  • Old Mexican||

    According to the government's logic, countless websites, Internet forums, Facebook, and so much more where people share information and offer each other advice on topics such as diet, parenting, and pregnancy are illegal.


    Thus making the law unconstitutional as hell.

  • fried wylie||

    In an ideal world, sure.

    In our world, it means countless websites, Internet forums, Facebook, and so much more where people share information and offer each other advice on topics such as diet, parenting, and pregnancy are illegal as hell.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Thus making the law unconstitutional as hell.

    Like that's gonna stop them

  • Hyperion||

    You haven't been committing think crimes on the interwebs again, have you?

  • RPR2||

    In her markup of Mr. Cooksey’s site, Ms. [Charla M.] Burill [executive director of the NC Board of Dietetics/Nutrition] underlined examples of unlawful advice

    is she a licensed attorney?

  • fried wylie||

    Oh. Snap.

  • Hyperion||

    My wife has a law degree from her home country, where she practiced for several years. After she arrived here as a permanent resident, she started asking me about maybe taking courses here in law. I told her law is simple here; Everything is illegal, and you can sue anybody for any reason, no matter how stupid, that is all you need to know.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    So, how does that Russian bride thing work anyway?

  • Hyperion||

    Dunno, I got mine through one of them Brazilian wimins trafficking cartels.

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    +1 bride

  • Almanian's Evil Twin||

    Doherty, are you licensed to dispense advice and opinion about Our Betters' ruling on the Blog Post Terrorist?

    Because if not....

  • mad libertarian guy||

    I wonder if the makers of this video are certified

    Because if we don’t critique homemade videos made by kids taking part in a statist indoctrination program, we’d be just like Somalia.

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