Monday, December 13, 2010

Nutrition Misinformation

Nutrition misinformation can have harmful effects on the health, well-being and economic status of individuals. About 22% of consumers claim to be confused by reports on health and nutrition. Sadly it is not always easy to decipher all the information out there. The good news is that accurate food and nutrition information is a result of scientific agreement from peer-reviewed studies that can be replicated.

Erroneous information is abundant and consists of incomplete, misleading science or anecdotal evidence. It can be disseminated recklessly, to gain attention, to promote a product, or to promote a philosophy of a special interest group. Food and nutrition misinformation includes food faddism, health fraud and misdirected claims.

Food fads are exaggerated unreasonable claims that eating or not eating certain foods, nutrients, supplements, combinations of certain foods may cure disease, provide significant health benefits, offer quick weight loss or provide some magical solution. More often these claims are made in an attempt to sell a product. Be wary of magic bullet statements. For example, "Eating 100% organic is the only way to be healthy".

Health fraud is a deliberate use of food faddism to make money. For example, marketing and selling a pill claiming that it will make your burn fat. According to the American Dietetic Association's (ADA's) Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, "health fraud means a promotion for financial gain, a health remedy that doesn't work - or hasn't yet been proved to work" and that is "promoted to improve health, well-being, or appearance".

Misdirected claims include those that lead consumers to make incorrect inferences and generalizations about food. A label on a food item may read, "low in cholesterol" in a plant product that does not contain cholesterol to begin with. It is perfectly legal to provide misdirected claims on food products, yet the Federal Trade Commission is working on providing adequate disclosures to correct advertising misinterpretations.

So, we have to be savvy consumers and take charge of our self-care. In 2004 consumers spent $43 billion on weight-loss solutions. Food faddism, health fraud and misdirected claims can be very expensive for individuals. it is thus important to get information from credible sources such as nationally credentialed dietetics professionals working in health care, academia, public health, the media, government, and the food industry because they are uniquely qualified to promote science-based nutrition information.

"It is the position of the American Dietetic Association (1) that Registered Dietitians (RD) and ADA members provide consumers with sound, science-based nutrition information and help them to recognize misinformation; (2) RDs and ADA members need to be the primary source of sound, science-based nutrition information for the media and to inform them when misinformation is presented; and (3) ADA members should continue to diligently work with other health care practitioners, educators, policy makers, and food and dietary supplement industry representatives to responsibly address the health and psychological, physiological, and economic effects of nutrition-related misinformation". Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2006; 106:601-607

1 comment:

  1. Misinformation on nutrition is dangerous because it may lead to health problems. Choose the vitamins and supplements that are proven safe and effective.