Recently I had the privilege of attending the annual meeting of the Virginia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. One theme that kept popping up was the endless amount of nutrition misinformation on the Internet. Do a Google search on the latest nutrition hot topic and you will find an extraordinary amount of “expert” information which in reality is simply a layperson giving their opinion. Next time you conduct a health related search remind yourself that anyone can create a blog or website with a catchy name. Follow these helpful tips by true nutrition experts from Appetite for Health to find the most reliable and evidence (i.e. science based) health & nutrition information.
Five ways to Get Better Internet-Based Nutrition Information
Look for peer-reviewed references: Almost every nutrition article we write on our blog, we provide the references and links to the abstracts or full research articles, when available. Of course, there’s a big difference in the quality of research with human clinical trials being the gold standard while animal studies or laboratory analyses don’t carry the same clout.
Check the writer’s bio: A quick search about the writer can turn up all kinds of useful information. You can see if she/he holds a research or clinical position at a hospital or university; or you can see if they have degrees that make them qualified to be able to provide the most accurate information. You can also see the relationships the writer may have with corporations that may influence his or her point of views on various nutrition issues. For example, a writer who consults with Monsanto or DuPont may have a strong pro-GMO stance.
Use .gov sites: We have a lot of wonderful government resources on the Internet that have accurate information, so use them. As a dietitian, I turn to Health and Human Services, FDA, USDA and many other government-based sites when I’m researching topics.
One study or source isn’t enough: Credible, peer-reviewed science needs to be replicated several times–and from various research labs–before you change eating habits based on the results. Often times, Internet stories fail to note that the study was preliminary or the results have only been found from one laboratory. Unless there is consistency in results with several studies, it’s probably not worth making changes based on the results.
Be a healthy skeptic: Probably the best piece of nutrition advice I can give to anyone is to be a critical thinker and if something sounds too good to be true, know that it’s 99% likely to be a sham. The Internet today is full of modern-day charlatans that may have degrees or even TV shows, but they too can have hidden agendas, and may have a financial incentive to mislead consumers.