If you were to ask me what the hardest part of my job is, hands down, I'd have to say rectifying the inaccurate and absurd nutrition advice all over the Internet, in diet books, out of the mouths of non-credible “foodies,” and, surprisingly, in Industry-funded or poorly-designed research.
While I’ve been tackling this issue since I became a Registered Dietitian, I’ve never addressed what might actually be going on and why you are constantly hearing mixed messages when it comes to food, nutrition and your health.
This satire made me crack up and actually inspired this article. It shows that any health claim can be qualified by someone, some scientist, some irrelevant study, or some type of statistical manipulation. Be aware of who is providing the information (are they a credible source?) and look deeper into the specifics, not just the latest media headline.
1. Everyone is different!
a. Many health messages you hear are general blanket statements. After all, it's true what they say: one man’s medicine may be another man’s poison. It is imperative you know what is right for YOU! Talk with your doctor, a Registered Dietitian or credible nutrition specialist in order to understand what dietary recommendations suit your particular needs. The information provided on NutriLiving is based on nutritional science, however, we still suggest you speak with your personal health care provider before implementing any new dietary changes.
2. Industry-funded research, advertising campaigns and ulterior motives
a. Advertising campaigns have one goal - to sell you a product. I bet you’re familiar with one of the most famous commodity brand campaigns in the world – “Got milk?” You've probably even sported a milk mustache. That's because these subtle campaigns imprint their brand in your memory.
Hey - time for a quick quiz! Can you name the brands these following tag lines represent?
- "I’m Lovin’ It”
- “Eat Fresh.”
- “Where’s the Beef?”
- “The Other White Meat”
- “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza.”
b. All of these campaigns require a lot of money – money that simple, healthy foods like organic fruits and vegetables don’t have. Luckily, we’re starting to see more space covered by The Hass Avocado Board and the Almond Board (at least here in California), and other healthier alternatives, but why should we listen to messages only because someone paid for them? Science is usually much more trustworthy (but be sure to take even that with a grain of salt!)
c. In addition to ad campaigns, large funds from these big food corporations are used toward research. I’m all for research, but what we need is truly unbiased research. I don’t need to read a headline stating that dairy helps with weight loss when the study was designed and funded by the Dairy Research Institute! Or, for example, this study, which showed that people tend to underreport calorie intake - an obvious fact - that was then twisted and somehow led to the conclusion that soda intake does not correlate with the obesity epidemic. Not surprisingly, the study was funded by Coca-Cola.
d. In addition, some advisors behind the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the USDA Food Guide Pyramid and MyPlate.gov include industry veterans from big agricultural businesses who may have hidden agendas – to sell more of that particular food. Conflict of interest? I’d say so…
3. Non credible bloggers, authors, and media personalities
a. Everyone’s a food expert these days. It isn’t hard to buy a domain name and rant about the latest food trend and why it’s good for you or post a video on YouTube making your secret “health tonic.” These “experts” often get information from reading someone else’s blog (see '“Telephone" game' below) or taking a news headline and running with it without qualifying its claims. Would you let your gardener cut your hair? Well then, why would you let a self-proclaimed foodie tell you what's good for your health?
4. The “Telephone" game effect
a. In elementary school, we all played the “Telephone" game. Lesson learned: GO TO THE SOURCE! The more middlemen, the more likely it is that something will get jumbled into an inaccurate mess. Don’t just believe what you’re told, look into it and make a decision for yourself. Imagine if you heard “Eat foods that are stale,” thinking this was the new secret weight loss diet, when the actual message was “Eat more kale” – how silly would you feel? Okay, so that's a silly example, but you get the point!
5. Media’s attention-grabbing headlines
a. This happens over and over again. Scare tactics and claims of immediate results work well to grab someone’s attention. Dr. Oz is the worst offender in this area. If he says "Jump," people are quick to respond, "How high?" Unfortunately, when someone with that amount of influence touts a new miracle cure, a mad rush ensues and disappointment soon follows. But let's face it, no superfood can do it all. What you need to do for optimal health is going to be time consuming and will require effort – eat foods that are good for you and live a healthy lifestyle. The NutriBullet makes this as easy as it’s going to get!
b. Poorly-designed research studies are also a nusance. A recent example of this is the study on omega-3 fatty acids and prostate cancer. Check it out and you’ll see why the headline doesn’t quite match the study’s actual findings.
Bottom Line: Make sure you get your information from a CREDIBLE source and learn to QUESTION everything before passing along misinformation. There is usually more to a story than meets the eye. To save yourself some agony and money, not having to constantly buy the latest fad diet product or supplement, stop and take a deep breath, gather as much information as possible and then, if you are still confused, ask your NutriBullet RDs!
Answers to the Quiz!
- Milk, McDonald’s, Subway, Pork, Papa John’s