Everyone loves to share nutrition advice, and there are more ways than ever to receive advice. Blogs, fitness facilities and well-intentioned family members and friends. What people don’t realize is that there can be consequences to bad nutrition advice such as failing to lose weight or developing nutrient deficiencies or toxicities that can seriously impact your health. With this being said, when listening or reading nutrition advice look for key signs that it’s bad advice. Here are my 5 ways to detect bad nutrition advice.
Who is providing the advice?
Always consider where the information is coming from and what qualifies that person or persons to provide that information.
While some registered dietitians (RD or RDN) may call themselves nutritionists, not all nutritionists can call themselves a registered dietitian. It’s fairly easy to get an online certification to call yourself a nutritionist, but RDs study for years to earn true nutrition expertise. Other reliable credentials include PhD (in nutritional sciences, exercise physiology as an example) and MPH (master’s in public health).
There’s no sound scientific evidence to support the claims
Scientific research stresses a high standard to demonstrate true cause and effect. It’s important for us to be critical of research, not skeptical. The strongest studies are in peer-reviewed journals, and are conducted long-term (months or even years) and have large sample sizes.
In research and science a common phrase used is, “correlation does not imply causation.” What does this mean? It means that just because there is a connection between X and Y does not automatically indicate that one caused the other. So if someone tells you that eating carbohydrates causes an increase in belly fat, call a time out and ask what evidence there is to support those claims.
Quick-fix or “cure-all” promises
When there are outlandish promises and guarantees involved with nutrition advice it is likely a scam. There is no one food or one product that is the be-all, end-all of problems. Don’t fall into their trap!
If it’s too good to be true, it likely is!
Advice is only supported by anecdotes.
“This works for me, so it will certainly work for you!” This type of advice should never override advice that is proven by evidence-based research. So when someone backs up their advice with personal stories and testimonials, take it with a grain of salt and ask for the real evidence to support it.
When it eliminates entire food groups, foods and/or nutrients
Extreme diets that eliminate food groups or nutrients such as carbs or fat and claim that it produces miracles to your health and/or weight should bring up a red flag – big time. When you remove a main food group, you are removing a key portion of nutrition from your diet. A short-term extreme diet likely won’t be an issue, but long-term can produce some problems in your health.
Many fad diet plans also don’t take into account a person’s individual needs. Registered dietitians consider a person’s health history, food preferences, cooking skills, current lifestyle, tobacco and alcohol use, medications, dietary & herbal supplements, age, height, weight and lab results before providing individualized nutrition advice.
So when you hear or read nutrition advice and it sounds questionable, consult with a health professional such as a registered dietitian to get a second opinion.