Fight misinformation with the help of a dietitian

You wouldn’t let just anyone set a broken bone, and the same should go for nutrition advice

Nadine Baerg

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We are constantly bombarded with messages that promise a lot and appear to be scientifically sound. Is there anything that we should consider before jumping right in?

Is the ad offering a quick fix?

Most of us know that lifestyle changes and the resulting impacts on our health take time and effort, we often still hold out hope that there will be a quick and easy boost to help us get there. Remember that if something seems too good to be true that it likely is. Small and manageable changes will have more of an impact in the long term as they are more sustainable.

Are they trying to sell you something?

Some messages are blatant, while others are more cleverly disguised. They are apparent in our favourite TV and radio shows, that blog that you follow closely and random ads that pop up throughout the day. Be wary of anything they are selling beyond helping you make every day healthy choices.

Not all science is created equal

Is the product or recommendation supported by only one study? That could be because there is no other evidence to back it up, or the other studies could have come to a different conclusion. The best evidence that something is true comes when there are numerous well-designed studies that come to the same conclusion. Larger sample sizes and using a placebo to compare results are two things that hint at a stronger study design.

Do they rely on personal testimonials?

Individual stories of success are nice to hear but don’t necessarily mean that a product actually works. Nutrition advice should be based on sound scientific evidence, not on personal testimonial. Also some testimonials gushing about products are not authentic, which becomes quite apparent when strikingly similar posts show up on multiple sites.

What are the person’s qualifications?

You wouldn’t let just anyone set a broken bone, and the same should go for nutrition advice. Especially in regards to supplements and specialized diets, which could be harmful depending on the advice and your own medical history. Always check with your doctor or a registered dietitian before making any significant changes. Health Link BC (accessed online or by phone at 8-1-1) is a great resource for general nutrition information and registered dietitians are available from 9-5 on weekdays.

-adapted from Dietitians of Canada and PEN campaign “Fight misinformation with the help of a dietitian”

– Nadine Baerg is a public health dietitian with Interior Health.

 

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