First you hear you should be eating less fat and more carbohydrates, then it’s less carbs and more fat. Today, it’s not unusual for articles in the popular press that report on newly published nutrition studies to appear to contradict previously reported findings on different studies. Is one right and the other wrong? Are they both right, but differently? How do you sort the "beef" from the "baloney"? Here are some tips on how to use caution and common sense when reading and listening to nutrition news reports.
Go beyond the headlines. An attention-grabbing headline may leave a different impression than the full newspaper article or news brief. Read or listen to the whole story. Often a response from experts or "bottom-line" advice appears at the story’s end.
Check the report. Are there other studies to support the evidence? Recognize preliminary findings for what they are. The results of one study are not enough to change your food choices.
Learn to be research-savvy. Read more about the study before applying its conclusions to you. Who are the authors? A reputable nutrition author usually is educated in the field of nutrition, medicine or a related specialty with a degree from an accredited college or university. Did the study use animals or humans? Results from animal studies are a good first step in researching a hypothesis, but the results don’t always apply to humans. If it was a human study, ask yourself: Are the people studied like you in age, gender, health status, ethnicity, geographic location and lifestyle? Does the study or report tell how it relates to overall food choices, lifestyle and other published research?
Check the source. Credible research comes from credible institutions and scientists and is reported in peer-reviewed scientific and professional journals. Before nutrition research is published in reputable journals, it must meet well-established standards of nutrition research. Look for referrals to journals such as the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, New England Journal of Medicine or Journal of the American Medical Association in nutrition news stories.
Seek a qualified opinion. Before making changes in your eating style, consult a registered dietitian, research scientist in the field or your doctor. Even promising research may not apply to you.
One research scientist often sought by the media to help sort through the myriad of findings coming out each week is Dr. Robert Eckel, professor of medicine with the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. Identified as a "top doctor" in America and highly regarded as a research scientist, Eckel will speak at the Fort Collins Lincoln Center on March 25 at a scholarship dinner hosted by the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition at Colorado State University and Poudre Valley Hospital. The title of Eckel’s talk is "Current Nutrition Information: Sorting the Beef from the Baloney." For information and tickets, contact Pam Blue at (970) 491-7345.