Five Red Flags!
Updated: May 28, 2021
Here is a list of Five Red Flags to help you identify dodgy nutrition advice in your social media feed...
So. Much. Information.
Literally everywhere, and coming at you from all angles.
Ads in your social media feeds are the new kids on the block. Throw in pesky pop-ups during your internet surfing, and the more traditional radio, TV and print media, and you can be marketed to almost anywhere, anytime.
I admit, I did have a bit of fun wading through the steaming pile of rubbish that was
desperately trying to present itself as reliable, science-based information when writing the Podcast on "Detoxing", but at the same time I was struck by how believable a lot of it could sound. If you don't have the time to research a subject, and don't know where to turn to get evidence-based information (remember, anyone can publish a website and say anything these days...), junk nutrition science can leave you feeling totally confused about what to do.
I thought it might be handy to arm yourself with a few weapons in the war against dubious nutrition information, to help you sort the genuine article from the junk.
5 Red Flags
(or how to spot dodgy nutrition advice)
1. Promises of a quick fix, and claims that sound way too good to be true.
“Follow this supplement programme for just 10 days and *insert desired outcome here*”
Claims like this are ALWAYS designed to encourage you to buy something, so be incredibly skeptical. Skepticism is is refusal to believe without evidence, or sound scientific reasons. It is a way of entertaining ideas, and wanting to investigate the truth of things. Cynicism is believing the worst of something or someone. It has nothing to do with evidence; it's more of an outlook on life...
Be a skeptic.
2. The enthusiastic and indiscriminate use of medical or scientific jargon.
Confused just reading the marketing material? Not a great sign…
Many companies looking to sell a new nutrition supplement or "superfood" will use language that sounds pretty convincing, often including words that are totally relevant to the subject, but drawing some very long bows. Antioxidants are a good example - we all know they are good for us, right? However, antioxidants found in whole foods (fruit and veg for example) are beneficial, whereas antioxidant supplements not so much, and in some situations can cause harm. This has a lot to do with the myriad of other compounds found in the whole food, and how they all work together for our benefit.
Food is always better than pills. Supplements are only if you can't meet your needs by
eating a balanced diet and need a bit of extra help (hence the term "supplement" not
3. Instructions to eliminate whole food groups while on a particular diet, or claims that certain common foods or food ingredients cause ill-health.
Good examples here are: gluten for people without Coeliac disease; dairy foods for people on "Paleo" diets; dairy foods and all wholegrain for people on "Keto" diets; and dairy foods due to claims they are inflammatory, in the absence of a milk protein allergy. All this food group elimination also significantly increases your chances of developing a range of nutrient deficiencies - and that's hardly going to improve your health.
Gluten is NOT evil**
(**unless you have Coeliac Disease, then hell yes, gluten IS evil).
4. Claims based on flawed evidence.
One small study, or a study on a specific group in a population where the results are
extrapolated out to apply to the general population, or studies funded by the company that makes the product are some examples of this. I'm not saying that all research funded by manufacturers of the products being studied are flawed, but it's a good opportunity to exercise those skeptical muscles.
Oh, so the study only had six people in it? Uh, ok...
5: Claims being made don’t line up with the information supplied, or statements made, by reputable organisations.
A quick look at some reputable sites, and a search of fact sheets or position statements on those sites, can reveal where the current "totality of evidence" lies (for more on what this means, check out Eat to Thrive Podcast #1).
Check out a list of useful websites on my Resources page, for evidence-based nutrition information.