Getting Good Nutrition Information
~ July 2015 No.260 ~
Consumers are always looking for ways to eat healthy. To-day we have information at our fingertips thanks to the world wide web. Added to that are the large number of health / diet television shows and popular magazines that devote some or all of their content to giving advice on what to eat. We are being swamped with "good advice" on what to eat to stay slim, to lose weight, to look younger, to feel fitter, to prevent or cure a wide variety of chronic diseases.
But is all of that information reliable? How do we know which to trust and which is just exaggerated and enthusiastic advertising for a product or a plan that promises to change my life for the better? Here are a few questions to ask yourself when you hear about something that seems too good to be true.
1. Who conducted the research? Whom do I trust? We should put most trust in people who know what they are talking about. Millions of dollars are spend every year to carry out solid, reliable research at our universities and research centres. This is where the best, unbiased science is being done. Reputable researchers are eager to have their findings reported. Unless the people who actually did the work are identified by name, and where they carried out their studies, maybe, just maybe, they don't exist.
2. Evaluate the content Does the description of the product or plan make claims that seem hard to believe, or that promise results in too short of a time with too little effort on your part? If all you need is three minutes a week using a new exercise gadget to build a bodybuilders physique, or if you could lose five kilos of body fat in two weeks by switching to a pre-packaged diet program, wouldn't we all be lean and look like Olympic athletes! Beware of articles that recommend the consumption of certain foods to "cure" specific diseases. Use your knowledge and experience to judge whether what you are being told makes sense or not.
3. Testimonials and sweeping conclusions If one or two people endorse a product or plan, even if they are well known or famous, their experience cannot compare to the results of a properly designed, well executed scientific experiment. The strength of science comes in the numbers; human studies with a large number of participants carried out for months or years can be tested for their validity using statistics. If you think you might be receiving false information or that an ad has misinterpreted study conclusions to make its product sound better, you can always try reading the original study report and judge for yourself.
4. Requests for money Is the article or advertisement you are reading intended to help you get better nutrition and have a healthier lifestyle or is it trying to sell you something? Very often the benefits of a supplement or diet plan can be achieved on your own by adding particular foods to your diet. It's easy and it's cheaper.
The best sources of information about foods, diets and health come from registered dieticians, human nutrition researchers, and your family doctor. Be an informed consumer. Do your homework, read labels, ask questions, and follow good advice.
- Thompson, J., Manore, M., and Sheeshka, J. Nutrition a Functional Approach 2014; 3rd Canadian Ed. Pearson Canada, Don Mills, ON
January 16 2016