Combating Misinformation in Nutrition
February 28, 2022 - By Dorothée Buteau-Poulin
As part of Nutrition Month, I accepted the invitation extended by the Dietitians of Canada to speak to you about this year’s theme, “Ingredients for a Healthier Future”, which calls us to discover the Power of Food. You know that the ingredients we consume affect our health and our environment, but other topics in this year’s theme include food sovereignty, food justice and policy, and the fight against misinformation. I personally prefer the latter, which I try to address daily at work.
Here are some concrete tips to help you unmask misinformation in nutrition.
Giving advice to get Likes
Working as a dietitian-nutritionist allows me to develop special relationships with the people I work with and to pass on my passion. This fills me with gratitude, but also presents certain challenges, including the fight against misinformation. Unfortunately, a new trend has emerged among some people seeking to collect Likes or Followers*, that of advising people on what to eat (or not), how much and when. This is the source of the many, and sometimes outlandish, statements such as “they say that…” or “I saw on social networks that…” to which I have to respond.
Before going any further, my nutritionist colleagues and I have concocted a little survey with four (4) TRUE or FALSE questions to make you aware of the type of misinformation that can be found on various platforms. The answers and explanations to these questions will be provided to you on our social networks over the next few weeks all throughout Nutrition Month 2022.
*A “like” is a mention of “I like” on a publication on social networks. A “Follower” is a person who subscribes to or follows a person’s or company’s account on social networks.
Fighting misinformation in 5 steps
- Ask yourself if the person informing you is seeking personal or financial gain. Are they selling products? If so, there is reason to think twice…
- Be skeptical: if it sounds miraculous or too good to be true, look for the source or reference of the message being spread. If you can’t find it or the person can’t give it to you, there is reason to be suspicious…
- Citing sources is a good start, but make sure they are reliable. Ideally, there should be several references, but if the message only comes from one source, make sure it is reliable. Here are some examples of reliable nutrition sources: Government resources such as Health Canada, nutrition section, Academic resources, such as Extenso (University of Montreal’s nutrition department) and Nutritionist blogs, such as this one: Le nutritionniste urbain.
- Don’t take someone’s personal experience or background as conclusive proof of what they say whether they are a well-known or seemingly credible figure. What may ‘work’ for some may not work for others for a number of reasons.
- Find out about the profession and/or training of the person giving the advice. The titles ‘nutrition coach’ or ‘nutrition specialist’ are not protected. Anyone can claim them or invent them. In Quebec, dietitians-nutritionists are the only professionals recognized as being able to issue appropriate nutritional recommendations for individuals and populations.
In spite of these guidelines, it is normal to remain confused when faced with certain publications and messages proposed in the media, so do not hesitate to consult a dietitian-nutritionist from our team to see more clearly and reach your objectives!
*When talking about dietitians-nutritionists, the feminine is the usual gender. The men who practice this profession are just as competent and important.
Dietitians of Canada. (February 5, 2022). Nutrition Month 2022. https://www.dietitians.ca/Advocacy/Nutrition-Month/Nutrition-Month-2022?lang=fr-CA.
Combating Misinformation in Nutrition is a post from Nautilus Plus. The Nautilus Plus blog aims to help people in their journey to fitness through articles on training, nutrition, motivation, exercise and healthy recipes.
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