Five Tips for Analyzing Health Articles

By: Meagan Mohammadione, Janelle Eidson and Rachel Stroud

In society today, we are bombarded by nutrition messages from the health advertising industry guaranteeing quick fixes and instant results.  Advertisers are brilliant at selling  product(s) by promising the latest weight loss method, beautification technique, and “magic bullet” to effortlessly become exactly what they want you to be. With all this deception in the media, it is crucial to question the information you’re exposed to in each ad, magazine article, and commercial. Here are five tips to critically analyze the information you come across daily:

1.    Beware of: Claims that sound too good to be true

If it sounds too good to be true it probably is!  For example, diets that promise a 30 lb. weight loss in one month provide unrealistic expectations, and even if accomplished have unhealthy consequences.

2.    Beware of: “Bad foods” and “Good foods”

There are no bad foods and good foods, there are just healthy and less-healthy choices. All foods can be a part of a healthy balanced lifestyle.

3.    Beware of: Non-reputable sources

Check to see who is writing the article and if they are someone you can trust! Look for an “about us” section if online, or a “written by” or  “sponsored by” in print articles. Watch out for companies creating claims to sell their product. Also, be cautious of “reputable” sources commenting on a topic outside their expertise. Though they may be experts in their field, that does not always mean they can be trusted on topics outside their subject.

4.    Beware of: Articles that tell you to avoid whole food groups

Remember balance is the key to healthy living. Each food group provides essential nutrients for the body. Avoiding an entire food group may cause deficiencies of the nutrients unique to that group. For example, the Atkins diet. While this particular diet may have some short-term results, cutting out carbohydrates is not a healthy pattern for long-term changes.

5.    Beware of: “Fix all”/”Quick Fix” recommendations

Lifestyle changes are what keep us healthy for the long run. Quick fix methods are rarely long term changes.

For trustworthy diet/health/fitness recommendations, check out these websites:

National Institutes of Health: www.NIH.gov – The NIH works on “Turning Discovery into Health” and provides great health information on their website.  Check out the A to Z Health Topics to browse information related to your health and well-being.

Smart Nutrition 101: www.nutrition.gov – This government-run website offers comprehensive information on many food and nutrition topics.  Highlights include: Eating through Life Stages, Weight Management, Nutrition and Health Issues, Cooking and Meal Planning, and Dietary Supplements.

American Dietetic Association: www.eatright.org/public – The world’s largest organization of nutrition professionals offers a great public website that includes food safety tips, disease management and prevention information, and strategies for healthy weight loss.  Also, be sure to check out the Consumer Diet and Lifestyle Book Review section where nutrition experts take a critical look at popular diets, where they highlight the good, the bad and the downright dangerous.

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