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Nutrition In The News: Are You Reading Facts or Fiction?

The internet, and especially social media has made it easy to find articles, videos, chat groups, magazines, webinars, and more. While undoubtedly a good thing at times, it’s also confused a lot of people, and enabled some to promote themselves as experts. How can you tell if you’re following hype, or the real deal? Here are some basic things to look for.

1. Who is the author, and what is it they’re presenting? If there is bias toward a feeding method be it raw, cooked foods, or commercial diets, their world-view may not be balanced so much as promoting a belief system. There should be no emotional attachment to the outcome when an author, or presenter shows you what they believe to be facts.

2. Is the headline explosive, frightening, or urgently prompting you to Act Now? This would fall under promotional material to make a sale (be it a sale for monetary purposes, or to gain followers, and add to their belief system) rather than being a resource to count on.

3. Does an article provide a source/citation for their statement? If so, check out the reference. Really check it out. I’ve seen links to supposed studies that aren’t actually clickable. There are also plenty of instances that may seem to support the author’s stance if you read just one sentence in that study, but too often the rest of the study had nothing to do with the author’s claim.

4. Is the presentation designed to appeal to your confirmation bias? Are the other articles/studies being noted in the presentation also appealing to it?

5. Don't rely on one source. Check reliable ones like pubmed.

6. Don’t be intimidated by studies that use language you may not understand at first. Sometimes you can scroll down to the Conclusion and see the facts that do, or don’t support the author’s claim.

7. How many of the claims the author makes are actually backed up with citations, and are those citations reliable? Citing their own work, or studies that may have been disproved, or written by people with the same agenda is questionable. Reading the same thing over and over again in presentations that are based on the same belief system should cause you to question the motive.

8. Has there been advertising to get you to read, or join something? One of the oldest marketing tricks is to create a problem where none exists (or exaggerate how popular a problem it is), and then present the solution. Sometimes you have to pay to hear/read that solution, and sometimes your email address and details are the motivation for getting your interest. If you’ve been prompted to do any of this after being made to feel even more scared, or inept, you should consider it a red flag.

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