25/7/2020 0 Comments
In this day and age nutrition and health advice is readily available at the click, swipe or press of a button (Slightly ironic given the title of this page is blog and I work in health). There is very little regulation on the internet with what people can or cannot say and often some claims seem all too good to be true. But are they fact of fiction? Here are some simple questions to ask yourself when first coming across some health advice/ information or individual story online.
Not in chronological order:
1. Where is the advice/ information being displayed?
Always be mindful of the location. Unless it is a scientific journal, first appreciate this information must have come from somewhere. Whether it be social media, news, blog or entertainment sight always ask why the information is being displayed here. If a post about how to stay fit during winter is being shared on a personal trainer’s profile, that likely fits the bill and seems like something a PT would like to share. If this same information is being shared on Pinterest or retail blog sight why is it there? and who is it coming from?
2. What are the credentials/ experience of the author?
This brings me to number two. Who is the author or individuals sharing the information? On social media you pretty well know who it's coming from, it's part of their profile. So, what experience does this person have with the information they are providing? If an influencer is trying to provide health advice or promoting a particular product, I would most certainly be finding out what evidence they have for their claim and not be taking it as gospel. If the author is a health professional, I would still be expecting evidence and finding out what experience they have in the space. It is important to note articles shared on news/ blog sites, even if written by a professional, may not be identical to what the professional had written. It is possible the editors have changed some of the wording or phrasing throughout in an attempt to make the article more enticing and or dramatic. Now this is not to de-value the important resources and information that many health professionals are providing through these platforms. Just to remember that online, people can share anything, and if it is what we are looking for or it connects with us personally sometimes we may overlook some of the key facts.
3. What is the evidence for their claim?
This would have to be the simplest, yet most important point. What is the evidence? If someone is promoting a product or making a health claim do, they have evidence to back it up. If they do, is the evidence of high quality or was it an experiment done by grade 12 students riddled with bias or conflicting evidence. If in doubt I do recommend gaining a second opinion. Whether it be a health profession like your GP or allied health professional who works in the space, asking for another perspective is key to distinguishing the fact from phoney.
(if so inclined you can visit the NHMRC site or follow this link to see the different levels of evidence related to scientific articles and how they are graded https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/sites/default/files/images/appendix-f-levels-of-evidence.pdf)
4. Why are they sharing this information/ advice?
This one is particularly important if they are promoting a product or item. They may have a personal tie or sponsorship aligned with them promoting it. This doesn't necessarily mean the product if bad, just be mindful that just because your 'health coach' recommends it, this does not directly mean it is right for you. It can be tricky, and may require further investigation, but just remember to ask; what is the evidence regarding their claims (or claims about a products potential) and is the person promoting the product/ information really the best person to be doing so.
Social media specific:
5. Are they sharing the whole story?
I think we can all agree social media can be a tad misleading. From the power of photoshop and filters to the ability for editing and displaying as little or as much as you like. I have come across this many a time when a pre and post photo is used to promote a weight loss program or product. We don't know the whole story. They don't tell us what this person ate between each photo, how much they exercised or simply whether the person actually enjoyed doing what they did to get to where they are. All you are shown is the photos. A major point here too is; we also don't know what has or will happened in 2, 5- or 10-years’ time. There are no follow up photos. We know that dieting is effective in the short term, without doubt, but we also know the majority of people are guaranteed to regain their weight once they stop dieting. We're not told how sustainable their current lifestyle is. I don't think anyone would want to live like they’re in an 8-week challenge for the rest of their life. My love for Japanese food most certainly would not allow it.
6. Should I be comparing myself to this incidence?
Finally, should we be comparing ourselves to those we see online. Most certainly not, but we do it any way. How can we not, all we see are the good things? Sometimes someone breaks the mould and posts something real and raw but most of the time social media is a place where only the good things are shared and that is just not real life. It is tough, the online environment is a constant bombardment of successful dieting, weight loss miracle supplements and body shape triumph, however you don't often see the other side unless you have experienced it for yourself. This does not mean great health and body satisfaction cannot be achieved, it certainly can, however an alternative perspective and approach may be needed to that you often see boasted online.
The term Lite/ Light on food packages may not mean low fat.
I know right.🤔 According to the food standards code the term light or lite is in fact a comparative food claim. What does this mean, well, essentially it means that it can be used as a comparison to an original or different product. It is not a term that MUST mean low fat or low calorie. Let’s take a lite chocolate bar for example. This would suggest the bar is low in fat or calories. However, it could also just mean lite in colour, texture or flavour in comparison to say the ‘non-lite’ or original product.
Food companies are out there to make money. They will do whatever they can to entice you to buy their products and that is what their marketing teams are for. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time food labelling is helpful and there to make our lives easier, however sometimes, the simple labelling techniques and statements on products are all to convincing not to buy.
Others to look out for include:
Gluten free – As I have said before this doesn’t mean it is better for you (unless you are coeliac or gluten intolerant). Furthermore, often you will find they list ‘gluten free’ on products which as naturally gluten free (like rice) due to this common perception that gluten is bad for you.
Boost Immunity – If you are a healthy person boosting or turning up your immune system is called inflammation. That is not good. Don’t assume because it says boosts immunity you won’t get a cold this winter.
Probiotic – This one has grown significantly. I see it on basically anything fermented. This ‘probiotic’ and ‘boosts immunity’ craze have grown significantly along with the rise of ‘gut health’. We know that having a healthy gut is vital to a healthy immune system and now products are labelled 'boosts immunity' because they contain ‘beneficial bacteria’ which are good for your gut. These foods have beneficial bacteria, yes, but to claim they are probiotic and immune boosting can be misleading (post soon to come about gut health, pre and pro biotics so watch this space).
Take Home: Label reading it tricky at the best of times. Some times packaging and label claims can be tricky so don't always take them at face value. Get in touch if you would like a free wallet card like this one -->
which can help you to compared food products and their nutrients next time you are in the supermarket!
If you feel you would benefit from gaining some more personalised and in-depth understanding of food label reading just follow the BOOK NOW button on the front page.