Busting Nutrition Myths, Part 1

How to make sense of the health information.

By Melissa Petrichko, WAC Nutrition & Health Coach

Nutrition & Health Coach 2This is Part 1 of the Busting Nutrition Myths series. View Part 2 here.

Health information is seemingly everywhere. You can find answers to your ailments through a quick internet search, recent news stories, and talking with friends about the latest fad diet that “seems to work for them.” But is the information scientifically proven or marketing hype?

It takes time to master a science, and nutritional and health science is in its infancy. Most research funding in the past went to disease prevention. Only in recent years has more funding gone to nutrition and lifestyle research. Additionally, many studies are funded by special interest groups or influenced by corporate pressure, which often leads to curated information that benefits a specific industry or company—not public health. Conducting studies is difficult, but reporting them is even more challenging because so many variables are involved. The only way to know if something is right for you is to seek evidence-based, non-biased information and try it out to determine if it’s right for you

Here are some simple tips to help you find reputable, non-biased health information:

  1. Question what you read, hear, and see
  2. Be skeptical
  3. Require intellectual honesty

Other reasons nutritional myths begin are related to the messaging and how we share information. The core elements of evidence-based nutrition are simply not appealing for marketing. For example, “eat your fruits and vegetables” might be erroneously re-written as “cure heart disease by eating broccoli.” Such a statement may lead to a myth about the “powers” of eating one vegetable.

To avoid nutritional myths, seek primary sources, especially ones that follow scientific methods to gather and replicate data, are peer-reviewed, and follow scientific codes of conduct.

When looking for information on the internet, ask yourself these six questions before trusting any health information.

  1. Who sponsors or hosts this website, and what is the website’s mission or goal?
  2. Who wrote the information and who reviewed it?
  3. When was the information written?
  4. What is its purpose and why was the site created?
  5. Does the site clearly state its privacy policy, and is my privacy protected?
  6. Does the website provide a quick and easy solution or “miracle cure” for the problem I am trying to fix?

For more information, visit the National Institute of Health’s resource for discerning a reputable source of health information.

Along with helpful hunting tips, be wary of these red flags:

  1. Information is anonymous. If the article does not highlight the author and their credentials, you may want to look for something else.
  2. Conflicts of interest. Is the source selling something or asking you to buy a product? If so, this is usually not science. It is marketing!
  3. Information is biased or one-sided. Is the author only highlighting one side of the evidence?
  4. Information is out of date. Avoiding information older than two years old is a good rule of thumb.
  5. Claims to have a miracle cure. If the site claims to cure different illnesses or problems with a single product, it is usually not science-based information. It is marketing.
  6. No evidence cited. If the information does not reference a trustworthy source, it may not be reliable.
  7. Poor spelling and grammar

It isn’t easy to sort nutrition fact from fiction. Follow these strategies to find nutrition information and ask a credentialed professional if in doubt. Keep an open mind, but maintain a healthy dose of skepticism.

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If you have questions or concerns about your health, contact WAC Nutrition & Health Coach Melissa Petrichko at mpetrichko@wac.net. For supplementation advice and recommendations, contact WAC Naturopath Dr. Darci Davis at naturopath@wac.net. View WAC Wellness services online and contact the Wellness Center at wellness@wac.net.

—Posted July 4, 2022; JC.

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