Extension @ Your Service: Finding reliable nutrition advice

Nutrition is an ongoing and ever-changing topic as research continues to emerge. It can often be overwhelming for the people to sort through this information and understand what is truly healthy. Blogs, books, TV shows, documentaries and websites are often the sources that people go to for advice on healthy eating. Unfortunately, some of these sources are not reliable or based off of sound research. So how can you determine if the information you are reading is a scam?

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 12.03.03 PMThe most important step is to first determine the source of the information. Reliable sources include universities, medical facilities, the federal government and nonprofit researched-based organizations. If looking for these sources on the internet, look for addresses that end in “.org”, “.edu”, and “.gov.” These indicate that the web page you are looking at most likely has scientifically sound research-based information to back its advice. Websites ending in “.com” can sometimes be false and misleading. Dependable sources often state where information is coming from, who funds the studies or organization, and what credentials and education qualify the writers on the topic

If this is still overwhelming to sort through and understand, there is good news! Staying up-to-date on reliable nutrition related research is a major part of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist’s (RDN) or Registered Dietitian’s (RD) job. There is no difference between a RDN and a RD; both go through the same accreditation process. RD’s and RDN’s are the true experts in this area and provide research-based knowledge to help individuals improve the quality of their diet. Services can range from individual counseling to group programs. If books and blogs are your preferred source of information, choose ones that involve an RD in the writing of them.

You may wonder what makes these professionals more qualified on the topic compared to others who claim to have nutrition related expertise. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics oversees the process of becoming a dietitian. To become an RD, one must complete a minimum of a four-year degree from an approved program that includes courses in biochemistry, human anatomy, human physiology, and advanced nutrition classes. After completion of this, he/she must complete at least 1200 hours of supervised practice in the field. Finally, passing a nationally accredited exam legally issues the RD or RDN title. Once practicing, dietitians honor The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ code of ethics. People who claim to be nutrition experts but do not have this title can vary greatly in their nutrition knowledge. Some may have good intentions, but may lack in experience and in-depth knowledge. Others may be looking at it as a quick way to make money and not take the overall health of people into consideration.

Remember, it is important to look for some of the major red flags that information may not be trustworthy. Personal testimonials or celebrity endorsement without scientific data to back it are definite signs. Another sign is a “diet” eliminating one or more food groups for the purpose of weight loss; this can lead to quick, temporary weight loss but in the long run can result in nutrient deficiencies and unsuccessful weight management. Another major warning sign to look for is the selling of products such as supplements or pills. If a diet or nutrition product sounds too good to be true, it most likely is. Using reliable sources and dietitians can help to decrease the stress from the overwhelming amount of nutrition information available and can lead to long term success.

The Richmond County Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on food safety, wellness, and nutrition please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Alyssa Anderson, MS, RDN, LDN at 910-997-8255.

Alyssa Anderson is the Family & Consumer Sciences agent for the Richmond County Cooperative Extension Office in Rockingham. Send her an email.

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