Yeah!! What woman out there is not rejoicing at the moment after hearing the latest headlines "Eat Chocolate, Weight Less". We hear headlines like this on a constant basis.
- Hot Pepper Compound May Help Your Heart
- Eat Cinnamon to Control Type II Diabetes!
- Green Coffee Beans in Weight Loss?
(Whew! Where do you get green coffee beans and how do you eat them anyway?)
Do you notice a pattern here? Many Americans are looking for quick health fixes. Sorry folks, you know deep down that it all comes back to eating a healthy diet, controlling portions and exercising daily. But wait a minute. What happens when you hear news that may apply to you and your personal health situation?
First always check with your doctor before you consider changing your diet based on the latest news. This is especially important when you have pre-existing health issues, to prevent complications or reactions with medications you may be taking.
Second do your homework – don't take what you hear as fact even if it is research from a university. Check over several weeks or months and see what other sources are saying about this research. The media wants to have a scoop, but wait and see what you find after that initial story. Many headlines lead to you believe that the food and the health condition mentioned have a cause and effect relationship, even when the research has shown only that they occur at the same time. The article may not have mentioned other reasons these two things happen together. For example, maybe the people who ate chocolate ate small portions, or weighed less to start with! This study used self-reported data, which may not be reliable. The facts that have been left out of the story can be very important!
Other things to consider include:
- Who financially supported the research?
- Are there similar research projects being done elsewhere to compare results?
- How many individuals participated in the study?
- How long was the study?
Remember just because it is writing doesn't make it fact. When researching online find out who supports the website. Check for credentials of contributing authors. Is the website trying to sell you something? Is the information unbiased and based on research? Has it stood the test of time?
Look for information based on sound scientific facts. Websites ending in .gov and .org tend to be more reliable. There are some good .com sites out there, but many rely on advertising to exist. So be on the lookout for ads on the pages that look like part of the article. Be a critical reader. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Below are some good resources:
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics eatright.org
- United States Department of Agriculture www.myplate.gov
- Food and Drug Administration http://www.fda.gov/
- Nutrition Advice from Registered Dietitians healthcastle.com
- Mayo Clinic health and nutrition information www.mayoclinic.com
- Ask a dietitian http://www.getfittn.com/nutrition/ask_dietician.htm
- Nutrition quackery and fraud: www.quackwatch.org
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine http://nccam.nih.gov/
- National Council Against Health Fraud http://www.ncahf.org/
- Health related hoaxes www.snopes.com http://urbanlegends.about.com
Finally, look for local resources that you respect and trust: your physician, registered dietitians, the county extension office, the hospital. These professionals may write columns in the newspaper and respond to your questions, or offer classes about health and nutrition topics. Become a detective when it comes to searching out reliable nutrition information!
By Kathy Diguiseppe and Mary Lou Kiel PhD,RD,LDN