Dear Dietitian, I learned about healthy eating. There’s a lot of conflicting information on the internet, and sometimes it’s downright frustrating! Can you help point me in the right direction? — Thank you Jim
Dear Jim: I share your frustration with the nutritional information. The internet has brought nutritional information to our fingertips, but at least half of it is false or misleading. Rest assured, the truth is out there and, in many cases, it’s free!
We will look at some of the reasons for nutritional confusion. First, the science of nutrition is in its infancy. It all started less than a hundred years ago when the first vitamin, thiamin (B1), was isolated. Much remains to be discovered in nutrition, especially in the prevention of disease.
Nutrition is a good story, and the media is racing to report a nutrition study. Who can blame them? It’s part of their job. However, these studies are often poorly reported, misunderstood, or just not good science. Remember, there will never be a single study that will change everything we think about nutrition.
Another confounding factor is nutritional quackery. We live in a “buyer beware” society, and many capitalize on pseudoscience. It can be easy to fall prey to something that promises a quick and easy result. Beware of snake oil.
There are ways to protect yourself from nutritional misinformation. Be an informed consumer. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For example, if a supplement promises to speed up your metabolism and melt fat, don’t waste your time or money.
Obtain your information from reliable sources, such as universities or health institutions. These web addresses will end in .org (nonprofit organization), .gov (government agency), or .edu (educational institution). Not only do these websites provide reliable nutritional information, but they accurately report the latest research results. Examples include the American Heart Association, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Mayo Clinic, and Harvard Health Publishing.
Seek a qualified expert when looking for nutritional information. He is someone who has studied the science of nutrition and obtained at least a bachelor’s degree in the field. Look for credentials after the author’s name, such as RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. There are other qualified nutrition professionals, and this information should be listed in the author’s biography.
Finally, consider the source. Scientifically based information should be referenced with cited sources. If the information is questionable, ask a nutrition expert. We often receive such requests in hospital settings. Do not hesitate to ask; people like to help.
Until next time, be healthy!
LEANNE McCRATE, RDN, LD, aka Dear Dietitian, is an award-winning registered dietitian based in Missouri. Its mission is to educate consumers about healthy, science-based nutrition. Do you have a nutritional question? Email him today at [email protected] Dear Dietitian does not endorse any product, health program or diet.