The weight loss and nutrition industry makes a lot of dubious claims with the goal of convincing consumers to purchase their products and services. The sheer amount of information and misinformation on the subject of diet and nutrition can make it difficult for many people to identify which information is fact and which is fiction. These six tips will help you identify false nutrition information.
1. Beware of Quick Fixes and Miracle Foods
The adage that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, definitely applies to nutrition information. Superfoods and miracle diets that can produce rapid weight loss, fight disease, keep you from aging and a host of other dubious sounding benefits do not exist. Beware of diets that label entire classes of foods, such as carbs or fats, as bad and other types of foods, such as protein as good. Certain carbohydrates, such as oatmeal carbs, are actually good for you and essential in a healthy and balanced diet.
2. Be Wary of Simplistic Conclusions Drawn From Complex Studies
The field of nutrition research is complex and can be difficult for the average person to understand. Nutrition experts who can distill this research into information that the average person can use provide a valuable service. However, many self-appointed experts cherry-pick data and draw simplistic conclusions that ignore the complexity of studies that generated that data. Instead of taking research and making it digestible for average people, these people use research in misleading or simply incorrect ways to push their own point of view. Be particularly wary of experts who are selling a product or program or who only present information that seems to support their own claims, without any contradictory evidence. Where possible, review the source material for their claims.
3. Don’t Place Too Much Importance on a Single Study
For something to be considered a scientific fact, it needs to be reproducible. A nutrition fact based on a single study is not really a fact at all. It’s a hypothesis that needs to be tested by doing additional studies and comparing the results. Be particularly cautious about studies that contradict what other studies on the same subject have found and studies that have been conducted by a party with a vested interest in the result. For example, information on the health effects of consuming sugar performed by an independent researcher in a peer-reviewed study should carry more weight than information that comes from a study financed or performed by a candy bar company.
4. Disregard Claims That the Experts Don’t Want You To Know
A popular tactic of fraudsters promoting claims that have been debunked by science is that “big-food” or “big-pharma” or some other mysterious organization doesn’t want you to know their super-secret information. If reputable scientific organizations are telling you that eating a pound of blueberries a day won’t cure cancer, then eating a pound of blueberries a day probably won’t cure cancer. The chances that shady corporations are paying off every reputable scientist, but some guy with a weight loss book to sell discovered what they don’t want you to know are slim.
5. Be Skeptical About Claims That Research Is Ongoing
Another way people attempt to trick consumers into believing the benefits of their products are scientifically proven is to claim that research is ongoing, or that more research is needed, but results are promising. This usually means that little to no actual research has been conducted. If there was actual scientific data to support their claims, they would tell you about it.
6. Take Reviews and Testimonials With a Grain of Salt
Most celebrities who promote products are being paid to do so. Additionally, shady companies often incentivize people to write fake or overly positive reviews for their products.
It can be difficult to filter through all of the misleading and exaggerated claims to get to factual nutrition information. However, these six tips can help you sort fact from fiction.
Mikkie is a freelance writer from Chicago. She is also a mother of two who loves sharing her ideas on interior design, budgeting hacks, and DIY. When she’s not writing, she’s chasing the little ones or rock climbing at the local climbing gym.