Trust, but verify
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
Intermittent fasting is key to good health
You should never eat gluten
Supplements are unsafe and a waste of money
Medications are making you sick
These are just a few examples of conflicting information you can get from medical professionals, journalists, health-oriented organizations, diet books and magazines.
These statements can all be backed up by research, so they must be accurate, right? Unfortunately, with human biology, science, disease and food- it’s not that simple. For any medical or nutrition recommendation, there is likely some form of research to back it up. So what do you do?
· Talk with your healthcare providers. They not only have the benefit of knowing A LOT about health, but they also have the benefit of knowing (hopefully) a lot about you- your health history, current conditions, lab results, medications etc. They are in an ideal position to give you specific health information.
· You can do your own research. If you are going to look at scholarly articles- make sure to educate yourself on the different types of studies and a bit about statistics and how to review and apply research. Otherwise, it is easy to misinterpret the study.
Here are a couple of websites that might help you better understand how to make sense of scholarly articles:
· Read other people’s recommendations and interpretation of the research. This is where different health organizations, educational institutions, professional websites and even blogs come into the picture. You can’t take everything at face value on these website. As much as we like to think we are objective, everyone, every organization has their own bias and personal interest. So keep that in mind.
Organizations and educational institutions websites tend to have the safest recommendations and information- It’s all been reviewed by numerous healthcare professionals and based on lots and lots of research. However, the information might not be the most up-to-date. It takes time for committees to review and assess research and make recommendations. And while these types of websites aren't usually selling anything, they may have sponsors or other financial ties that influence what they publish. This doesn't mean they are purposefully deceptive, but you should keep an open mind.
Blogs by healthcare providers or professional institutions might be more up-to-date, but they haven’t always been reviewed by other experts and possibly may be trying to sell you programs or supplements. That doesn't mean these sites can't be trusted, but you should keep an open mind. It can be helpful to look at multiple perspectives to get a better picture.
Here are some websites: organizations, educational institutions, and healthcare providers that work hard to provide research-based information and recommendations. They might not always agree, but they can all provide valuable information to help you make choices about your health.
· Trust your gut. No one takes care you like you take care of you. We’ve all had healthcare providers who go above and beyond to help us out- and maybe we did what they recommended or maybe we didn’t. We’ve also had those who were too busy and maybe we fell through the cracks. If you have questions or concerns, you wonder if something is being missed- you owe it to yourself to do some research and talk with your healthcare providers about it. You also owe it to yourself to take the initiative to follow up on recommendations and provide feedback. No matter how attentive your doctor, dietitian, nurse, chiropractor, dentist… wants to be- you are ultimately the one who decides what to do. Knowledge is power- but the power doesn’t do you any good if you don’t use it. So take care of you and put into practice the things that have the best chance at making you feel better. Most of the time, you won’t really know until you try.
So as you try to navigate the craziness
of health and nutrition recommendations, here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself to help you find more trustworthy nutrition information.