Seek Nutritional Facts – Avoid Fad Diets
When searching for weight loss and nutritional information online, learn how to identify bad diets.
One day you hear that a certain food is good for you — and the next day you hear just the opposite. According to a recent survey from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, one in five people reported being confused by news reports that give dietary advice.
Proceed with caution. The days when people took their everyday food questions to a doctor are all but gone; the Internet is now the most flourishing area for nutritional information — and misinformation. With no governing body or set of rules overseeing Internet content, there’s nothing to prevent anyone from using a URL to peddle false information and promote fraudulent products and concepts. This presents quite a conundrum for web surfers: Seeking health information is the third most common reason people go online. How does a nutritional layperson know what’s true and what’s not?
“There is a tremendous amount of information out there, but what is missing is an accuracy or reliability filter,” says Stephen Barrett, a retired physician and owner of Quackwatch.com, a nonprofit corporation that combats health fraud. To fill that void, the Food and Nutrition Science Alliance (FANSA) —a coalition of food scientists, nutrition professionals and researchers — recently issued a list of “red flags of junk science” to aid consumers in evaluating nutrition and health reports and advice.
The old adage “Don’t believe everything you read” still rings true in the Internet age. Be smart, be skeptical and be discerning. Choose reliable and reputable sources for healthinformation for you and your family, and you’ll be better informed — and healthier.
Too good to be true?
The following five diet and nutrition claims should make you wary.
- Lists of “good” and “bad” foods. Most reputable nutrition professionals agree that there really are no good and bad foods, just good and bad diets. One food alone will not make a person overweight or unhealthy, nor will one food alone bring about weight loss or better health.
- Claims that sound too good to be true. A claim that a particular food or diet can single-handedly cure an illness or work miracles on your metabolism is usually unfounded. Also, beware of claims of a “secret formula,”another clue that quackery may be at work.
- Recommendations based on a single study — or ones without peer review. A single study, no matter how well designed, is not adequate as a basis for definite conclusions and recommendations. Valid scientific studies published in reputable medical journals undergo a thorough review process before publication.
- Promised quick fixes. Many people would like to lose 20 pounds in two days, but history and biology continue to prove that it is just not possible.
- Dramatic statements refuted by reputable scientific organizations. Anecdotes and testimonials from other consumers or celebrity endorsers are often used to promote a diet, product or cause. These should not take the place of scientific research or general consensus among scientists.
Althea Zanecosky is a Philadelphia-based registered dietitian and national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Read her article about food myths here.