Navigating Nutritional Noise

 Navigating the virtual world of health claims – my top 5 tips

Social media delivers information to us that it thinks we will enjoy using a variety of algorithms that none of us understand, well I don’t anyway, although at the same time very grateful for as it may be the reason you are reading this now!  Promises of getting rid of our menopausal belly in the next month, drinking a supplement made from organic dragon fruit grown in 100% oxygen and harvested by specially trained goats will eliminate our digestive symptoms or the lack of one micro-nutrient that will cure your insomnia.  These claims are sometimes very obviously extreme but others, well they have lead me to question if I am missing something even though I spent 4 years at university and over 2 decades practising in the NHS.

I’m going to be honest with you, I was quite oblivious to it all until I jumped into the freelance world and started looking about.  So how can we spot the red flags?  Let me help you!

  1. If it sounds too good to be true – it usually is!

The online world if rife with fad diets, quick fixes and sensationalised claims.  Real change takes time and consistency.

  1. Tone of the language used

Fear-mongering, advising you cut out entire food groups, labelling certain food as toxic and my personal favourite – if you can’t pronounce it you shouldn’t be eating it! Anyone using these kind of tactics should be avoided at all costs.

  1. Who is giving out the information?

Do a little bit of digging behind the person or organisation making those claims.  As discussed in my previous article (put link in here) Dietitians are the only health professional regulated by law and have a similar ethical code as doctors.  Reputable, well known organisations often employ Dietitians or qualified nutritionists to provide their dietary information.  Also, there has in recent times been guests on some well respected podcasts, sometimes those hosted by medical professionals who have been in my opinion downright dangerous.  I view giving a platform to these people as unethical and I was really disappointed in their choice of guests.

  1. Just because they cite research papers……………..

To truly be able to interpretate the relevance of a research paper takes a robust understanding of statistics, and also the ability to discern the relevance.  The research paper that concluded aspartame gave you cancer – was conducted on RATS! Yet it was taken by the media and sensationalised.  The Womens Health Study (WHI) reported HRT gave women breast cancer had numerous flaws in it and yet still to this day some women will not consider HRT for their menopausal symptoms because of how it was communicated.

  1. Cross reference

Look for other sources of the same information.  If more than one person or organisation is giving out the same information the chances of it being greater are correct.

The online world can be a really valuable tool in accessing nutritional information however it is crucial to approach it with a critical mindset, your health is too important to be left to the uncertainties of the virtual world.  Remember when it comes to nutrition a personalised, evidence-based approach is the key to long-term well-being.

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