Recently I attended an event where there was a speaker doing a presentation on nutrition. Right off the bat I noticed her credentials on the screen: a non-science, non-nutrition bachelor degree and a personal training specialization that doesn’t delve too much into nutrition as far as I know. I raised my eyebrow at this, but settled back in my chair and decided to give her the benefit of the doubt.
If you had been watching me while I watched her presentation, it probably would have been amusing. I’m pretty sure I was squirming in my seat and sitting on my hands so that I didn’t give into my strong urge to speak up and challenge her information. But I like to consider myself at least somewhat socially graceful, so I bit my tongue and did nothing.
But those of you who know me know that I can’t really do nothing about this sort of thing. So almost immediately after getting home from the event, I wrote this post on 3 things that should make you question nutrition information. I know the audience that night will likely never see this post, but it makes me feel slightly more at ease to at least know I’m putting this out there.
(Note: The Dietitians of Canada recently released this fantastic news release on 5 tips to spot misinformation. I originally had all of these points written out in my post, but when I realized the overlap, I decided to just link to their post instead and focus on my other points!)
1. They use fear tactics
Extreme claims about nutrition and health are definite attention grabbers. But truths can get stretched or entirely fabricated altogether, especially when real scientific evidence isn’t considered (see #3). If you don’t see a reputable reference for the extreme claim, take it with a grain of salt – actually, take it with a grain of salt anyways – and question why they are using these fear tactics. Are they just trying to be dramatic or is that fear tactic followed by a solution (a book, diet plan, etc) that you can convieniently purchase from the person? If it’s the latter, run away!
2. They have no formal training in science or nutrition
The human body is complicated. I studied it for 7 years in school and internship and still don’t fully understand it. So how can someone who has no formal education in science or nutrition understand it? Sorry but they can’t. It’s this incomplete understanding of the human body that leads to all the absurd notions and fad diets that sound like they could be true, but aren’t because they fail to consider the complete picture (i.e. the alkaline diet).
3. They reference books rather than reputable studies
Books are not evidence. The internet is not evidence. That charismatic doctor on TV is not evidence. The only real, solid evidence comes from scientific studies that are peer-reviewed and published in scientific journals (being able to understand those studies is key too because different types of studies provide different quality of evidence!).
So don’t let yourself be duped! Next time you’re exposed to nutrition information, keep these 3 things in mind (plus the 5 great tips from the Dietitians of Canada) to decide whether to believe what you’re being told.