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  • Writer's pictureWestwind

Identifying Reliable Nutrition Information

Tips to use when considering nutrition advice

Nutrition information is all around us and highly accessible. With the abundance of information supporting the link between diet and health, it is no wonder individuals personally seek out remedies to improve their own health and well-being. Based on the sheer volume of information out there, it is easy to feel overwhelmed when looking for health information. A simple google search of the phrase: “nutrition and health” yields 666,000,000 results. A google search of the phrase “nutritious foods” yields a whopping 2,670,000,000 results! Not to mention the daily nutrition information we get from television, radios, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, and friends and family. When seeking this information, we are guaranteed to find something of interest. But what are the chances this information is reliable. Nutrition information that is not supported by science, may be misleading, incomplete and possibly dangerous to our health. This type of information fraud is called nutrition misinformation. Accurate and reliable nutrition information is science-based, peer reviewed, and replicable. It can become very challenging determining the fraudulent nutrition information and claims from the reputable nutrition information and claims. This is why I have decided to put together some tips to use when considering nutrition advise.

If you are planning on including supplements or herbs into your diet, or planning on making any drastic changes to your intake, please consult your primary health care provider for further guidance and to refer to a registered dietitian (RD). The below recommendation should be used as a guide when considering online advise or advise from other sources.

Nutrition Misinformation / Unreliable Nutrition Information Proceed with caution when:

  • Recommendations promise a quick fix.

  • Information states a particular health risk(s) from a single nutrient, food, product or regime.

  • Claims sound too good to be true or state a “cure all” from a single nutrient/food/product or regime.

  • A simple conclusion is drawn from a complex study or studies.

  • Nutrition recommendations are based solely on a single study or few studies with small sample sizes (less than 25 participants).

  • Nutrients, foods or products are labeled as either “good” and/or “bad”.

  • Claims state research is “currently underway”, indicating that there is no current research available.

  • There are non-science-based testimonials supporting the nutrient, food or product. Such as nutrients, foods or products promoted by celebrities or highly satisfied customers.

  • The information is coming from the person selling the nutrient, food or product.

  • The advice suggests you replace food with a supplement or that you need to buy a special nutrient, food or product. Food is the best source of complete nutrition.

  • It is recommended to cut out whole categories of nutrients, foods or products.

  • The authors of the statement or claim have no credentials.

  • There are no references or links to the scientific studies or other data mentioned in the recommendation.

  • There are no regular updates to the printed and/or online postings of information to reflect the most current advice. However, current does not necessarily mean accurate.

So, how do we get safe, reliable and accurate nutrition information?

  1. Seek out the experts! A qualified nutrition expert is known as a registered dietitian (RD). They have a specialized science degree in diet, nutrition and health from an accredited university and must complete annual continued education to stay licensed. A RD is considered the most trusted source for reliable and accurate nutrition information. Currently there is very limited laws enforcing the regulation of nutrition claims. Watch out for individuals who identify themselves as “nutritionist” or “diet counselors”, as these terms are not regulated, and thus could have limited nutrition education or education from non-accredited schools.

  2. Check the source. When looking online, consider the website. Websites that end in .edu, mean educational institution or .gov, mean government agencies, tend to be more credible.

  3. Who are the authors? Look for credentials such as RD, MD or national organizations such as ADA (American Dietetic Association), or DC (Dietitians of Canada).

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