Five Ways to Be A Smarter Consumer of Nutrition Information

If you missed it, my friend Jessie Hoffman, MS, PhD and I hosted a free webinar last Monday to talk about five simple ways to be a better consumer of information. There’s a lot of nutrition information streaming at us (everyone eats, so everyone has an opinion...right?), but how do we sort out what information is good and what’s less-than-quality? Catch the replay below to see our full thoughts, or scroll down for the TL;DR version!

1 | Check out the author

Know who’s talking to you - they don’t need to have medical credentials of their own, but are they an established writer? Do they link to credible sources (these sources should have medical credentials or credentials pertaining to the subject)?

A brief note on nutrition credentials:

The official title for dietitians varies by country, but in the USA, a dietitian is referred to as a Registered Dietitian (RD) or Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Nutritionist isn’t a protected term, meaning pretty much anyone can call themselves a nutritionist… but a dietitian has a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree (it’ll be a Master’s in 2024) and has completed 1200 hours of supervised practice. Be picky about who you get information and advice from.

2 | Click on the links

First of all, there should be studies and other articles linked (linking to other blog posts does not count as supporting evidence, but can be useful in giving some context or additional information). If there’s not, proceed with caution.

Click through the links provided to see if they’re reputable - look for studies and original research. You don’t need fancy journal access to see the abstract (summary) of articles and get a quick overview!

3 | Skim the Studies

From the abstract/overview page, you should be able to see if the study was conducted on humans (preferable), if it was large enough (varies depending on topic, but a study of 30 is small, for context), if the authors have any conflicts of interest, etc. Keep all of these things in mind when deciding how you feel about pieces of research.

4 | Correlation ≠ causation

Correlation is simply two things having a relationship - causation means that those two things cause each other (one to the other, or vice versa). I use this analogy when describing the difference: ice cream sales increase as shark attacks increase - but eating ice cream doesn’t increase your risk of getting attacked by a shark, they just both happen in summer. It’s really, really hard to prove causation, so many studies look at correlation - just be careful about interpreting results.

5 | Find the takeaway

From the abstract of studies, you should be able to glean the key message - and this should match up with the key message of the original article and the title of the article. It’s a very valid strategy to write article titles that are eye-catching (we all do it), but those titles should be supported in the article or blog itself. My biggest pet peeve with health media is that the title or message presented is often not the one taken away from the original research.

What new information did you learn from the webinar? Any particularly eye-catching articles you want us to myth bust?