5 Tips for Identifying Credible Nutrition Information
Read time: 3 min 9 sec
Accessing nutrition information is now easier than ever with social media, television, and the internet. But with an onslaught of information comes the challenge of having to decide which sources you can trust. Our registered dietitians have provided their top 5 tips for identifying credible nutrition and health-related information.
1. Evaluate the Source
Media and News Outlets: These sources often sensationalize articles to engage readers and TV viewers. As a result, nutrition research can be over-generalized or misrepresented. It is always best to check with a trusted, science-based source to compare what you see/hear in the news.
Websites: In most cases, credible websites end in -.gov, -.edu, or -.org. This does not mean that websites ending in -.com or -.net should not be trusted, but they should be carefully reviewed. Keep reading to learn what red flags to look for on any website, regardless of the domain.
2. Identify the Author
Nutrition information from experts in the field and well-established organizations (e.g., the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Diabetes Association) are typically safe sources to trust. If the article you are viewing was not written by an expert or established health organization, look to make sure the author identified credible sources.
Experts in the nutrition field can be spotted by their credentials. Registered dietitians, the go-to experts for nutrition information, can be identified by the letters “RD” or “RDN.” Anytime you see unfamiliar credentials, do a quick Google search to find out what they mean and who issued them. Take a close look at the requirements for achieving the credential to see if it comes from a trusted, established organization.
3. Look for Bias
An article or news report can be biased if the author or organization has a pre-existing stance on the topic, or if the author has a financial or other interest in the findings. A well-written article or news story should be objective and present all the available facts related to that subject. There are several ways to look for potential bias.
Website Name: The name of a website may indicate the type of information it contains. Be cautious of website titles that could indicate inherent bias (e.g., www.OnlyOrganic.com).
Promoted Purchases: Some websites make a profit from the information they provide. One red flag is an article followed by a sales pitch to buy diet plans, supplements, or other goods.
Endorsement and Sponsorships: Another consideration for potential bias is endorsement and sponsorship. Look to see if the article you are reading is sponsored by a company or group who would profit from the article (e.g., a meat packing company sponsoring an article on the potential dangers of a plant-based diet). Endorsements do not always mean the information is biased, but it does imply a relationship between the company and article source.
4. Be Cautious of Extreme Emotions
Credible websites and news outlets should present facts with very little emotional attachment. Be cautious of articles or news stories that open with an extreme call to action (e.g., 5 foods you should stop eating right now!) or elicit an emotional response (e.g., fear, anger, outrage).
5. Ask the Experts
Trust your gut when you come across nutrition information that seems too good to be true. The best way to check if an article or story is supported by scientific evidence is by looking to the experts. For nutrition-related topics, consult with a registered dietitian. These health professionals can interpret the research and provide personalized recommendations based on your unique lifestyle. You can also cross-check information you read and hear with credible websites and organizations (listed above).
The difference between a dietitian and nutritionist
In the field of nutrition, registered dietitians (RDN or RD) are the go-to experts. To become a registered dietitian, an individual must earn at least a 4-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, complete a supervised internship program, and pass the national registration exam. Although some well-educated nutritionists provide evidence-based recommendations, there is no universal definition of what qualifies someone to call themselves a “nutritionist.”
Here are some potential red flags to look for when deciding if the nutrition information you are receiving is credible.
- Sounds too good to be true
- Advice does not align with guidelines from reputable scientific organizations
- Recommendations to eliminate one or more healthy, nutrient-dense foods
- Dire warnings about the dangers of a single food or dietary pattern that incite fear, panic, or other extreme emotions
- Recommendations based on only one study, or a few small studies, or animal research
To have your nutrition-related questions answered, reach out to one of our registered dietitians at firstname.lastname@example.org
Next Article: Desk Stretches