Heart of the Matter- How to spot bad dietary advice

By June Shannon Nutrition News   |   27th Sep 2018

Our expert dietitian Sarah Noone, has some top tips on how to spot bad dietary advice, weed out the myths and avoid ‘nutribabble’.

 

At the Irish Heart Foundation, we aim to provide accurate and evidence-based information on heart health to help you make informed decisions about your health.

Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is an important tool in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. However, the barrage of dietary advice that we seem to be inundated with, on an almost daily basis, can leave us bamboozled and confused. What is even more concerning is that some of it may even be harmful.

Thankfully our expert dietitian Sarah Noone, has some top tips on how to spot bad dietary advice, weed out the myths and avoid ‘nutribabble’.

There are no magic bullets
Avoid advice that promises a magic bullet to solve your problems. There are lots of claims out there on social media, in magazines and newspapers that promise to be the ‘quick fix’ you have been looking for all this time. Unfortunately, Sarah said they are simply “making promises they cannot keep.” Magic bullets don’t exist, and they don’t work, certainly not in the long term. They can also be potentially dangerous. Therefore, Sarah advised “A good rule is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

The importance of balance
Beware of recommendations that promote avoiding or eliminating entire food groups from your diet. Sarah advised that a balanced diet consists of food from each food group. By excluding whole food groups, you risk becoming nutritionally deficient, she warned.

Don’t single out single foods
Be aware of danger warnings attached to a single food or recommendations that promote a single food as a ‘cure’. Sarah urged people to be aware of claims that one specific food causes different diseases or is going to solve all dietary problems. “We should be eating a range of foods for health. Lists of good and bad foods are also ones to watch out for. What is most important is what our diet looks like as a whole and not single foods,” she said.

One study is just one brick in the wall
Beware of dietary recommendations that are made based on one single solitary study. Remember dietary guidelines are based on the entirety of the best evidence available not just one study. “Each study is just a brick in the wall we need to look at the whole house,” Sarah advised.

Get the facts
Question and be wary of dietary advice that is made to help to sell or promote a product, e.g. food or supplements. Sarah underlined the importance of checking for sound or evidence-based science to support any claims made. “Much dietary advice offers no supporting evidence apart from a celebrity with a personal success story,” she warned.

It’s never that simple
Beware of recommendations where simplistic conclusions have been made based on complex studies. Some bad dietary advice is based on scientific evidence that has been misunderstood, misreported, distorted or used out of context.

There are no secrets
Avoid recommendations based on a ‘secret’ that dietitians and doctors are yet to discover. Remember, the leading experts across the world in the field of nutrition would not miss a scientifically sound fix. “Dramatic statements opposed by reputable scientific organisations are also ones to watch out for,” Sarah said.

Check the source
Finally, Sarah said it was important to beware of where your dietary advice comes from. “Unfortunately, there are many people claiming to be ‘nutrition experts’ who are unqualified. For those who use the services of these unqualified ‘nutrition practitioners’, the advice or therapy provided may be ineffective, inappropriate and potentially unsafe. Remember registered dietitians are the only legally regulated nutrition professionals in Ireland.”

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diet myths dietitian healthy eating heart of the matter nutrition research

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