Conflicting Nutrition Advice
Why is there so much conflicting nutrition advice and who to trust?
Why Is There So Much Conflicting Nutrition Advice And Who To Trust?
The vast array of nutrition advice is a cause of much confusion and anxiety among keen dieters and nutrition enthusiasts. It seems like everyone has a different agenda and a different message. Some so-called experts or gurus love to raise the alarm over the silliest things while others tell you to just eat in moderation, who is right?
Why The Confusion
Basically, there is no official regulation on nutrition advice, anyone with a passing knowledge of nutrition can call themselves a nutritionist. The very fact that you can buy a meal plan and diet supplement from mums at the school gate highlights how bad this is.
It doesn’t help that there are many fad diet companies who sell their own method or product and many of these use unethical network marketing schemes where the emphasis is on sales, not results.
Established diet clubs, no names mentioned but you know who we mean, tend to focus on what you can’t have with extensive lists of banned or ‘bad’ foods which are more likely to damage your relationship with food than they are to educate on about the science of energy balance.
The mainstream media don’t help either. As a general rule if you read it in a newspaper you can ignore it. The press doesn’t tend to employ food scientists and, if reporting on a science paper, will gleam the highlights from the abstract without actually reading and critically assessing the entire paper. Newspapers aren’t educational journals and they use sensationalism to sell papers. They love to scare you.
Most TV shows and documentaries do a really bad job of reporting on diet and nutrition. See our article here about the first episode of how to diet well.
The paleo movement love to spread false information about hormones and GM crops.
Vegans have an obvious (if understandable) bias and tend to cherry pick most of their data to support their bias.
Low carb diet movements like Atkins or Banting also love to cherry pick data, often from rat or mouse studies, while dismissing peer reviewed evidence to the contrary as part of an imaginary conspiracy by nestle, or something.
Even Drs sometimes spread false information, especially if they have a book or product to sell. Faux science sounds smart to the uninitiated but it’s unethical and often dangerous. Dr Oz anyone?
Sometimes you get celebrity gurus who probably have an eating disorder themselves and try to get you to buy into the concept of moonbeam activated cashews (seriously) or some other woo nonsense. These people are almost always very rich and charge the earth for their services or products.
How To Spot Bad Advice
I won’t lie, it’s not easy to weed out the wheat from the chaff but it’s safe to say that the more you know the harder it is to get duped. Educate yourself, sign up and do The Journey here, do an online nutrition course by a reputable company, read text books, actual text books on biology and nutrition science, not the scare mongering faux science with titles like The Dopamine Diet, The Blood Sugar Diet, Wheat Belly or anything written by Gary Taubes.
A simple rule of thumb you can go by is this; if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Likewise, if you read something that fills you with dread and anxiety like “OH MY GOD ALL THAT BREAD AND MILK IS THE REASON MY GRANDPARENTS ONLY LIVED TO 92!” You can probably safely assume that it’s bad advice.
Although most experts in the public eye will have some kind of product or service to sell if their advice seems extreme then they are almost certainly more concerned with their sales than they are with your health or wellbeing.
Any books, articles or blogs that give advice should be referenced. If they are giving you advice based on NHS guidelines they should mention that. If they are talking about scientific research they should provide citations, either within the text or at the end of the text where it says ‘References’.
However, it’s easy to cherry pick data to suit your agenda and unless you know what you’re talking about you won’t be able to discern creditable sources from uncreditable sources. But, if they are quoting guidelines by governing bodies then you can feel safe that those guidelines are based on a robustly researched body of evidence, with human trials rather than a random epidemiological trial. An epidemiological trial is where a single mechanism is tested outside of its normal environment using a petri dish. This gives clues to a thing but being an isolated reaction means that it is impossible to gauge the full biological effect. Animal studies are similar, although an important part of the research process, human trials are also needed.
Who To Trust
Evidence based nutrition professionals, some of whom are in fact researchers themselves and spend much of their time in a lab with a white coat on are usually safe to follow. However, sometimes, they are too focused on the stats and not focused enough on the practicalities of dealing with individuals. But, if someone uses the terms evidence based, or evidence informed, this means that they care about the un-biased FACTS.
In the sports nutrition world people like Alana Aragon, Lyle MacDonald, Dr Layne Norton, Eric Helms, Brad Schoenfeld, Asker Jeukendrup are all pretty good sources of reliable information. Just don’t engage them on Twitter if you value your sanity.
Governing bodies like The World Health Organisation (WHO), The NHS, The ACSM, ISSN and NASM, to name just a few, are all safe bets. Another company who offer a brilliant amount of free information, especially on supplements is Examine.com, they have done all the research for you and have made it easy to digest.
However, the more people you follow the confused you will become. Even the most well-meaning experts will deliver their message in ways that may conflict with another’s depending on who their main client base is. For example, Layne Norton is focused on body composition for physique athletes, while Asker Jeukendrup specialises in endurance sports.
Ben Coomber is GymCube’s resident nutrition expert, follow him online and his companies Body Type Nutrition and Awesome Supplements. But don’t forget to watch his videos in our nutrition section.
Obviously, you can trust GymCube, largely because we get our advice from the above sources and also because we care about you.
As for diet advice, we quite like this quote from American food writer Michael Pollan as a start:
“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”