You wouldn't be reading this journal unless you cared about what you eat. However, how do you really know if what you're being told is true or not? When it comes to making your way through the minefield of nutrition and food, here are a few rules to get you started.
RULE 1 - DON'T BE SOLD TO
Firstly, don’t take nutritional advice from someone who is trying to sell you something – or a vested interest that is up for convincing you that you shouldn’t eat something.
Agendas and nutrition are not a good mix. The source of the information is crucial – ah, you say “the blogs I read and the guy in the gym I get advice from are nutritionists, so I have that covered”. Well, that’s a partial yes - there are properly-educated nutritionists that know what they are talking about; but the other extreme is also there.
RULE 2 - NOT ALL NUTRITIONISTS ARE EQUAL
Here is the definition of a Dietetics from the Association of UK Dieticians:
“Dietetics is the interpretation and communication of the science of nutrition to enable people to make informed and practical choices about food and lifestyle, in both health and disease. A dietitian will have trained in both hospital and community settings as part of their course. Most dietitians are employed in the NHS, but dietitians also work in the food industry, education, research and on a freelance basis. It is necessary to have a Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) recognised degree in nutrition and dietetics to work as a dietitian and to be registered with the HCPC if working as a dietitian. The title dietitian is protected by law, anyone using the title must be registered with the HCPC.”
And here is their definition of Nutrition:
“Nutrition is the study of nutrients in food, how nutrients are used by the body, and the relationship between diet, health and disease. Many nutritionists hold a nutrition degree and are on the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists, but this is not a mandatory register.”
However, many nutritionists don’t hold a nutrition degree. Bottom line, folks, is that a dietician does what it says on the tin, and a nutritionist could be – literally – anything from a PhD in nutrition to a few months online course. A quick search of the interweb will reveal online courses for less than £100 (print off your own certificate), if you fancy having a go yourself.
The real problem is that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing; so, armed with the very basics and an “I know nutrition” attitude, our nutrition warrior will then read the paper, or surf the interweb to fill in the very large gaps with the kind of pseudoscience and people with agendas that we are all aware of.
RULE 3 - REALITY
And it’s not just the internet – there is very robust evidence that up to 50 per cent of research in scientific laboratories can’t be reproduced. This is most prevalent in biology and the life sciences.
It’s a swamp out there, folks, just bear that in mind the next time nutritional experts (real or otherwise) make definitive statements online or on paper.
Over the next few months we will crush a few myths and dispel some rumors, offering advice from experts, without an agenda. Join us for the journey and some healthy debate!