How Do Nutritionists Help Clients Navigate Online Nutrition Misinformation?


    How Do Nutritionists Help Clients Navigate Online Nutrition Misinformation?

    In the digital age, where nutrition myths and misinformation abound, we turned to the experts for clarity. From a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist's advice on consulting trustworthy sources to a Nurse Practitioner's tips on debunking fad diets, here are seven insights provided by nutrition professionals on guiding clients through the maze of online health claims.

    • Consult Trustworthy Nutrition Sources
    • Stay Informed and Verify Information
    • Clarify the Context of Dietary Fats
    • Use Scholarly Research for Validation
    • Evaluate Research and Funding Sources
    • Dispel Detox Diet Myths with Evidence
    • Debunk Fad Diet Claims with Facts

    Consult Trustworthy Nutrition Sources

    I stress the importance of using trustworthy sources rather than getting their nutrition information from social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. To avoid misinformation, consult government websites, scholarly publications, reputable healthcare organizations, and registered dietitians' websites.

    When someone online offers exaggerated claims, quick fixes, unverified anecdotes, celebrity endorsements, or their 'claims' lack any citations or scientific references, more than likely it's misinformation.

    Michelle Rauch
    Michelle RauchRegistered Dietitian/Nutritionist

    Stay Informed and Verify Information

    I've assisted clients in navigating nutrition misinformation by staying consistently informed. In the ever-evolving field of nutrition, it's crucial to stay updated on research from reliable sources. Verifying the accuracy of online information empowers clients to make informed decisions about their health. My role is to guide and empower clients in making healthful nutrition choices through reputable sources, promoting a balanced lifestyle. I also teach clients how to spot misinformation online and how to reliably choose trustworthy sites.

    Lisa Young
    Lisa YoungNutritionist and author of Finally Full, Finally Slim, Dr. Lisa Young Nutrition

    Clarify the Context of Dietary Fats

    A client came to me unsure of whether to include fats in her diet, as she had read conflicting views on whether fats were good or bad for her health.

    I explained to her that it's not necessarily a case of fats being just good or bad; rather, it is true that some fats, such as saturated fat (e.g., fatty cuts of meat, full-fat dairy products) and trans fat (e.g., biscuits, cakes), can be harmful to one's health when consumed in excess, while unsaturated fats, such as polyunsaturated fats (e.g., walnuts, flaxseed, oily fish) and monounsaturated fats (e.g., avocado, olive oil, cashews), can be beneficial when included in the diet.

    I elaborated on the previous point by suggesting keeping trans fats to less than 1% of her total energy intake and saturated fats to no more than 10% of her total daily energy intake. This is why 'context' matters.

    In other words, there are shades of gray between the black and white.

    John Gaule
    John GauleNutritionist, John Gaule Nutrition

    Use Scholarly Research for Validation

    There is a lot of misinformation regarding nutrition online. In order to navigate it best, it's a good idea to go to Google Scholar or any kind of platform such as PubMed that shows journal articles to see if there is validity in the information given. Nutrition articles should be backed up with facts from research studies to validate their accuracy. It's also important to make sure that the authors of the article are not sponsors or owners of the company for which they may recommend a specific product due to bias. You can also cross-reference the statements on other platforms to see if there's consistency.

    Kim Ross, Ms, Rd, Cdn
    Kim Ross, Ms, Rd, CdnIntegrative Nutritionist, Kim Ross Nutrition

    Evaluate Research and Funding Sources

    I have my patients consider the following: What's the source, and does it have research to back it? If so, is the research recent (less than 10 years old), from a randomized controlled trial, and what was the sample size? And who funded the study?

    Whitney Stuart
    Whitney StuartMS RDN CDCES Dietitian & Diabetes Educator, Whitness Nutrition

    Dispel Detox Diet Myths with Evidence

    One client believed a trendy online detox diet would enhance weight loss and overall well-being. I emphasized evidence-based practices, explaining the potential risks and lack of scientific support for such extreme measures. We discussed balanced nutrition, incorporating a variety of nutrient-dense foods, and personalized meal planning.

    I provided reputable sources, debunked myths, and highlighted the importance of sustainable habits. By fostering understanding and guiding the client toward credible information, we developed a realistic, long-term approach that aligned with their health goals. This empowered them to make informed choices, promoting a healthier lifestyle while dispelling misinformation.

    Huma Shaikh
    Huma ShaikhFounder and Dietitian, HitHealth

    Debunk Fad Diet Claims with Facts

    One of my clients was following a popular social media influencer who promoted a fad diet that claimed to help people lose weight quickly and easily by eliminating all white foods, such as bread, rice, potatoes, and dairy. The influencer also claimed that caffeinated drinks did not count toward the daily fluid intake and that taking a multivitamin was enough to meet the nutritional needs without eating fruits and vegetables. My client was confused and tempted by these claims, so I explained to them why they were false and misleading.

    I told them that white foods are not unhealthy and that they provide important nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, and vitamin D. I also told them that caffeinated drinks do count toward the fluid intake but that they should limit their consumption to avoid dehydration, insomnia, and anxiety. I also told them that taking a multivitamin is not a substitute for eating fruits and vegetables, which provide phytochemicals, antioxidants, and other beneficial compounds that are not found in supplements. I helped them find reliable sources of nutrition information online and taught them how to spot false claims and health fraud using the resources from the CAP Code. Finally, I encouraged them to follow a balanced and varied diet that included foods from all food groups and to consult me or their health care provider before trying any new diet or supplement.

    Trent Carter
    Trent CarterNurse Practitioner, Founder, Curednation