It’s a new year and a common New Year’s resolution is to eat better and increase physical activity. Two issues you might find yourself facing when searching for ways to start or continue your resolution are fad diets and misdirected health claims. Fad diets are eating patterns that promote short-term weight loss with little concern for long-term weight maintenance and overall health, and misdirected health claims lead consumers to believe certain foods are healthier than they actually are. Often, in our search for wellness, we look to the internet for this health information, so how do we know what to trust? Here are a few tips from Iowa State Extension for finding reliable nutrition and health information online:
- Consider the source. Try to use sites that have web addresses that end in .gov, .edu, or .org. These are most often websites for government agencies, educational institutions, and professional organizations.
- Know the website’s purpose. Is it to provide information or to sell something? If available, read the “About” section of the site to help determine the reliability of the information on the site.
- Look for the evidence. Health decisions are best based on medical and scientific research, not on opinion. Look to see the sources of information for the website. Be cautious of sites that offer information from a single source.
- Check the date. Health information is continually changing. Check the bottom of the page to find out how recently it was updated or reviewed.
- Visit a health professional. Online health information should not replace talking with your physician or other health professionals.
Additionally, Iowa State pinpoints several red flags that may help you identify misleading claims when considering diet advise:
- Promises rapid weight loss. Weight loss more rapid than 1-2 pounds per week tends to be regained even faster. Many factors play into our weight status, including genetics and physical activity levels, along with what we eat. Rather than focusing solely on weight, consider if you will be learning new skills that improve your health, like meal prepping or choosing whole grain foods.
- Cuts out entire food groups. Removing an entire food group (like dairy, grains, or legumes) without a medical reason to do so (such as a food allergy) is impractical and can cause you to miss out on key nutrients.
- Detoxes/cleanses/fasts. Did you know your body comes with built in detoxifiers? That’s right, your kidneys and liver have been doing this since the day you were born! Additionally, there are many concerns regarding following a cleanse diet for an extended period of time, including fatigue due to limited protein, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and dehydration.
- Requires you to purchase pills/bars/or shakes. A sustainable (and affordable!) eating pattern is based on food readily available in grocery stores and farmer’s markets.
- No need to be physically active. Physical activity is essential for good health and weight management and should be a part of your daily routine.
Protect yourself from fraudulent products and services by becoming an informed consumer. Knowing questionable advertising and sales techniques can help you evaluate your options. Colorado State Extension points out a few common practices that may indicate you need to do more research:
- Does the advertisement contain words like “break-through,” “miracle,” “special” or “secret”? These are used to appeal to your emotions and are not scientific or medical words.
- Is the product or service a “secret remedy” or a recent discovery that cannot be found anywhere else?
- Is the product recommended for stress, or being promoted as “natural,” claiming it will help “detoxify,” “revitalize” and “purify” your body?
- Does the manufacturer claim that the product is effective for a wide variety of ailments, or a “cure all”? The broader the claims, the less likely they are to be true.
- Does the sponsor claim to have a cure for a disease (like arthritis or cancer) which is not yet understood by medical sources?
- Do the promoters use guilt or fear to sell the product?
- Do the producers claim that the product is available in limited quantities and recommend the consumer pay in advance?
- Is there promise of a “money-back guarantee”?
Hopefully this information provides you with a little more awareness on how to navigate the endless amount of information available at our fingertips and the flood of advertisements we seem to face on a daily basis. If you’re looking for great recipes and healthy meal ideas visit our website at go.osu.edu/delish-dish or CelebrateYourPlate.org
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
CFAES provides research and related educational programs to clientele on a nondiscriminatory basis. For more information, visit cfaesdiversity.osu.edu.