Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

Nuts are Among the Berries: Finding Reliable Nutrition Information

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Nutrition quackery has plagued the nation for decades ever since the first traveling salesmen began to claim the health benefits of their tonics, potions, and “diet” supplements.   Since then, we have been flooded with varying degrees of misinformation from simple false advertising to scams, promises, and schemes with some downright fraudulent.

Nutrition misinformation is found in abundance everywhere from TV, radio commercials, magazines and books, health food stores, and of course the Internet.    Other information may come from personal trainers, health food store clerks, a doctor, or actually anyone.   Some is based on sound, scientific, reliable sources; it is just hard to tell the differences between legitimate science and pseudoscience.   About 27 billion dollars are spent on legitimate and non-legitimate products and services in the name of nutrition and health.

Valid nutrition information is based ideally on carefully designed, peer-reviewed scientific studies that can be replicated.  No one should trust the results of just one study or transfer data from animal studies to humans.  Reliable science relies on using new findings to add to or discount the existing knowledge base. That is one of the reasons why so much nutrition news appears to constantly change.

So who are the experts?  Physicians?  Some are but unfortunately only thirty percent of all medical schools in U.S. require a comprehensive nutrition course.  Less than half require the minimum 25 hours of nutrition education recommended by the Academy of Sciences.  If you have ever taken one nutrition class in high school or college, you would more than likely have completed 45 hours of instruction.

The bottom line is to look carefully at the credentials of anyone who called himself or herself “nutritionist” as someone who has completed an advanced degree ( BS, MS or PhD) from a nationally accredited institution. Registered dietitians (RD) are “nutritionists” that have completed a four-year degree in nutrition or a related field and have completed an internship as well as passed a national examination.  They are required to complete 75 hours of continuing education every five years as well. Many are licensed based on state laws.

Keep in mind that there are still many “diploma mills” “out there” (especially in nutrition) offering titles, degrees and credentials that may not be valid.

Again, consumer beware!!  Do not hesitate to ask your “nutritionist” about their credentials, education, and experience.

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