Confused about conflicting nutrition information? Know where to find reliable nutrition facts based on sound research, or do you feel like you’re swimming in a sea of sharks?
With the advancement of technology, consumers face a daily barage of “scientific” discoveries, ancient remedies, and miracle weight-loss diets from various media outlets. But how is a person able to identify credible information from false claims? Overall, how do you stay up-to-date on nutrition and how it affects health?
If you’re like most people, you rely on poplular media – newspapers, television, magazines and the internet – to provide you with the latest nutrition news. Many people even rely on these channels of information over their health care professional. For your own good health, it’s worth your time to locate credible sources of information and be able to judge for yourself the value of sound nutrition advice.
When Do We Need Nutrition Advice? Every day! However, there are times when you need more information, such as if you…
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Have trouble with infant or child feeding
- Are an “extreme” athlete
- Have struggled trying to lose or gain weight
- Are caring for an older parent
- Want to change your eating habits to help prevent diesease
- Would like to eat smart to stay healthy
If you’re frequently on the internet, you know how much misinformation proliferates in cyberspace. Nutrition is no exception; thousands of new blogs, chat rooms, and nutrition-related Web sites appear each year. Some may be credible and provide sound eating advice, but others may not be science-based. How can you identify a Web site you can trust? Ask youself the following:
- Who is the sponsor or owner of the site? Look at the three-letter suffix on the Web address. If it ends in .edu, it is an educational institution. A site that ends in .gov is a government agency and a site that is owned by a non-profit organization will have .org at the end. These three sites tend to the most credible. Those sites that end in .com are commerical sites; be sure to scrutinize information from these sites with care.
- Does the site have have regular updates? How current is the information? Credible sites reflect current research. Be cautious; being current doesn’t make it totally accurate.
- Is the site trying to sell you something? Is it promoting a specific product? These can be warning signs for bias.
- Does the Web site provide cited sources, or is it based on opinions? Scientific findings should support the information provided for consumers.
Learn how to be your own judge of nutrition information. When reading a book or the newspaper, identify the author and his or her qualifications. Are they affiliated with an accredited institution that offers research? Ask yourself why the information was published, and if the advice is credible. Was a study conducted that led to the recommendations? If so, learn more about the study itself – was it a long-term study with a large group of people? What were the characteristics (age, gender, etc.) of the people? Do other studies support these findings? Become familiar with the meaning of words used in research. For example, “contributes to” does not mean that it “causes”.
When in doubt, check with your health care professional, registered dietitian, or your local library or university. Hospitals, public health, and your Extension office are other reliable resources. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Submitted by: Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County.