Is wine just as healthy as 1 hour of exercise? Can lemon water cure cancer? Cow’s milk is poisonous? We read these headlines all the time, but can we actually trust them?
For the most part, the answer will be no. Here are reasons why you shouldn’t believe that new nutrition headline:
Media publishes study results too quickly.
One new rodent study proves that cinnamon cures Alzheimer’s. That’s nice, except that the study only included 10 mice. And they all lived in the same cage with the same environment. Oh and we’re not rodents.
Ok, you can argue that some include human studies. Well, in this case, the study included 20 people and someone asked them what they ate the past 10 days over the phone.
Studies aren’t perfect and one result doesn’t prove anything. If you actually read the study, there will probably be a sentence along these lines: More studies are needed to correlate these results. Yup, even scientists know this. But media is so hungry for nutrition headlines they will pick the first thing they see.
Everyone thinks they’re a nutrition expert
The Food Babe just published a new post? IGNORE IT AND RUN AWAY AS FAR AS YOU CAN! Just because you eat doesn’t make you a nutrition expert. Only people who have a university degree in nutrition/dietetics are nutrition experts. Not a naturopath, not a chiropractor, and not a personal trainer who got their certification from an online institution. Please make sure you see who the author is.
*Also, please note that the term nutritionist isn’t a reserved title in most places, but dietitian or registered dietitian is. If it isn’t reserved, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. Same goes with terms like nutrition coach, nutrition expert, holistic nutritionist, etc.
Is a food company behind the study?
Unfortunately, there are often profits to be made when study results are published. If a study financed by an almond milk company reveals cow’s milk will cause all your problems, they will get money through their products’ sales. Does this mean all studies that are financed by food companies are bogus? Not necessarily. If the study is carried out properly and are backed by results of numerous others, chances are it’s trustworthy.
So what can you do?
Don’t worry, there’s still hope out there! With a few simple steps, you will be able to spot a real article from a popular grab-your-attention non-factual one.
- Look for the authors’ credentials and rely on experts. Is the author a dietitian or a chemist? If so, chances are the article is safe. This is not so true for other authors: mom with a child who suffers from allergies, a man who lost 100 pounds, someone who thinks they cured their cancer by taking a homeopathic medicine (don’t get me started on homeopathy…). They don’t have all the knowledge to make a claim. Also, not because something worked for one person means it will work for everyone. If someone in the health field (physio, doctor, personal trainer, etc.) does write a food-related post, please make sure there are references FROM SCIENTIFIC JOURNALS to back up their claims. Which brings me to my next point:
- Read the references in the article. If there are references to scientific journals, at least read the abstract and conclusion of the article. These are easier to understand than the rest of the article.
- Avoid articles that claim that a single food or nutrient is the culprit or the cure to a disease. Our health is based on many factors, like physical activity, where you live, your ethnicity, etc. We also don’t eat nutrients, we eat whole foods, which all interact with each other. Yes, omega-3 fatty acids are good for heart health, but they won’t have the same effect if the rest of your diet consists of donuts and cookies. A good word of advice is that if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Point final.