Content provided by the Health & Wellness Team at GBS Benefits
From the Dietitian’s Desk
With Becca Rick, MS, RD
In a world of smart phones, social media, and quick internet searches, information is available at the touch of a button. Headlines, Instagram posts, and YouTube videos on the latest health fads are endlessly available. Search results might show foods like celery, coffee, or antioxidants claiming to be the key to optimal health and longevity while others might warn of links to cancer or health risks.
Discerning fact from fiction is a challenging task; however, taking time to become a savvy consumer can help you build confidence in knowing which messages are trustworthy. To combat confusion, ask the following four questions when viewing nutrition information online:
1. Is this information coming from a reliable source?
First, always check the credentials of the author or creator when consuming content. Are they a trusted source on the topic? For nutrition advice, look for information from a registered dietitian (RD or CD) or someone with an educational degree in the topic.
Second, pay attention to where information is published. Government or educational sites that end in .gov or .edu contain reliable, research-based information, like www.mayoclinic.org, www.eatright.org or www.nih.gov. In addition, Google contains a search engine called Google Scholar (scholar.google.com) that searches only for credible, scholarly literature and provides reliable research studies on a variety of topics. These sources will be more trustworthy than journalistic articles or social media posts.
2. Does the claim sound too good to be true?
Be wary of content that uses dramatic, sweeping claims to prove a point. Any claim that promises a quick fix, promotes extreme weight loss, or vilifies a major food group signals a red flag (no, bananas do not make you fat!). For example, claims like “Lose 30 pounds in 2 weeks!” or “Get in shape by cutting out the carbs!” should be avoided. If the message sounds too good to be true it probably is.
3. Is the claim relying on testimonials or personal opinions?
Each person is entitled to their own opinion and experiences, but someone sharing their experience online does not make it reliable evidence. Science-supported nutrition undergoes several stages of review, study, and research. If a friend on social media claims a certain diet or approach worked for them, be sure to conduct research before accepting their information as fact.
4. Is the message trying to sell something?
Be aware of biases. The diet industry is lucrative, and new products are constantly being developed and marketed to make money. Messages that are selling expensive meal replacement products or supplements may not have your best interest in mind.
When it comes to nutrition claims, maintain a healthy level of skepticism when discerning fact from fiction. Look beyond the headlines and remember that a wholesome eating pattern isn’t as complicated as the media may make it seem.