If you want to know how to identify fake news, ask a dietitian. We have been dealing with crazy nutrition claims forever.
My professional organization, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is celebrating 100 years of service this October. I suspect those original dietitians had to discourage people from swallowing tapeworms to lose weight and not drink mercury-laced elixirs to clear digestive ills. With more sophistication, the practice of misrepresentation continues.
Last week this issue once again hit my radar. I saw a headline that cashews could be as effective as chemotherapy in preventing a recurrence of cancer. I love all nuts and recommend them to my patients. But, really, as effective as chemotherapy?
Further reading reveals this recommendation was based on an observational study, meaning it cannot definitively conclude that the nuts caused the outcome of reduced cancer recurrence. By all means, eat nuts and follow other nutritious behaviors, and see your physicians for regular cancer screenings. And I don’t have space to list all the “cures” associated with coconut oil — ranging from curing Alzheimer’s to balancing hormones.
A few tips to recognize bogus unreliable nutrition knowledge (BUNK):
Unrealistic claims: Losing 10 pounds a week, one food curing a disease, and my personal irritant — the treatment your doctor doesn’t want you to know about. None of this is true.
Demonizing a food: Sugar has no nutritional value. I recommend to all patients, and my husband, to reduce sugar intake as much as possible. I educate people on hidden sugar and strongly discourage sweetened beverages. Sugar is pro-inflammatory. That said, a small amount of sugar will not sabotage your health when the rest of your intake is nutritious.
Listening to celebrities’ nutrition advice: Where did they get their training? Don’t change how you eat based on how they look.
To eliminate the BUNK, schedule a nutrition checkup with a registered dietitian nutritionist. You’ll save money and discover the truth.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.