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|Questionable health claims, miracle supplements, unproven remedies, alternative therapies, weight loss schemes, unsubstantiated claims. How do you know what or who to believe?It is difficult to know who to listen to in regards to trustworthy nutrition information. Because anyone can post any kind of information online, some people may be passing along information that’s limited, inaccurate, or just plain wrong. Some will even try to deceive you.
Unfortunately, there is little monitoring when it comes to the content found on nutrition sites, which leaves opportunity open for anyone to publish a site and provide incorrect nutritional claims.
Here are some suggestions about verifying reliable and up-to-date nutrition information on the internet:
What are the credentials of the person offering advice? Remember, anyone can publish on the web. They don’t have to know what they’re talking about.
Credible nutrition information comes from qualified nutrition experts. Look for credentials such as RD (registered dietitian) or MD, and affiliations with nationally known health organizations like the American Dietetic Association (ADA), the American Medical Association (AMA), or the American Heart Association (AHA). A registered dietitian is your best resource for the most up-to-date and accurate nutrition information. In order to receive the credentials ‘RD’ the individual must have completed a four-year bachelor’s degree in nutrition or related science, completed a yearlong internship at an accredited institution, and passed a challenging national registration exam to practice nutrition. To maintain their credentials, they must also participate regularly in continuing-education programs.
What is the website URL address of the site? The domain suffix provides some information about the site. In general, websites that end in .edu (meaning an educational institution) or .gov (meaning government agencies) tend to be the most credible sources of nutrition information. Websites ending in .org (meaning organizations, often nonprofit) also can be a good source of information.
A site ending in .com is a commercial website. The information provided is designed to promote or sell products or services so may be more likely to have one-sided or erroneous information. There may be a monetary or public relations reason to push that information. Remember that if a website’s main purpose is to sell products, it will only contain the information the seller wants you to read.
The most dependable sources of health evidence tend to be hospitals, government agencies, universities, and major public health and health advocacy organizations, such as the American Cancer Society. These groups use information that’s gone over by renowned experts and updated often.
Another clue to what type of site you’re looking at is whether there is a ~ symbol in the URL. This symbol usually indicates that the site is an individual’s personal Web page and the information should be given wary examination.
Trustworthy websites have guidelines about putting up links to other sites. If the site gives links to other sites, are they trustworthy sites? Are the linked sites selling products or services?
Testimonials or Scientific Evidence
Is the information based on opinions or personal experiences? Testimonials or anecdotal reports (“I know a person who…”) may be quite moving, but the information doesn’t mean that it’s accurate or that someone else will respond to the treatment. Good information comes from studies that are done on large groups using careful scientific methods.
Suspicious List of Claims
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has developed a list of claims that should make you suspicious of a website:
· Claims of a “scientific breakthrough,” “miraculous cure,” “secret ingredient,” or “ancient remedy”
· Claims that a product can cure a wide range of illnesses (No one product can do this.)
· Stories of people who’ve had amazing results, but no clear scientific data
· Claims that a product is available only from one source, especially if you must pay in advance
· Claims of a “money-back” guarantee (While this may make the product seem risk-free, it’s often impossible to actually get your money back.)
· Websites that don’t list the company’s name, street address, phone number, and other contact information (It may exist only offshore, away from US laws and regulators.)
Problems in any of these areas should raise a warning that the site may contain information that’s not based on careful science and cannot be trusted.
Health on the Net Foundation
Health On the Net Foundation offers a way to check the quality of a website. HON is an organization whose mission is to guide people to useful and reliable online medical and health information.
To be allowed to display the HON logo, participating websites must agree to abide by an ethical code of conduct. The HON code tries to improve the quality of medical information on the Internet through some basic principles which cover things like authorship, documentation of materials, and sponsorship of the site.
HON also tries to actively promote effective Internet use with specific medical search engines that give you reliable and scientifically sound information.
Here are some of my favorite websites for credible nutrition information:
American Council on Science and Health http:// www.Acsh.org
American Dietetic association http://www.eatright.org
American Heart Association http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/
American Medical Association (AMA)
American Journal Clinical Nutrition http://www.AJCN.org
Berkeley Wellness Letter
Center for Disease Control Hoaxes http://www.Cdc.gov/hoax_rumors.htm
Center for Science in the Public Interest Newsletter https://www.cspinet.org/nah/index.htm
Cleveland Clinic http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/askdietician/ask7_01.aspx
Food and Drug Admin http://www.Fda.gov http://www.fda.gov/Food/DietarySupplements/default.htm
Harvard School of Public Health http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/
Health on the Net Foundation http://www.Hon.ch
International Life Sciences Institute http://www.ILSI.org
Linus Pauling Oregon State University http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/
The Mayo Clinic Mayoclinic.org
National Council Against Health Fraud http://www.Ncahf.org
Nutrition Quackery http://www.Quackwatch.com
Reliable research articles. http://www.Pubmed.gov
Sloan Kettering http://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/integrative-medicine/about-herbs-botanicals-other-products