Monday, 22 October 2012

But it is backed up by "research"!

The world of nutrition is always evolving. It keeps us all on our toes but it also makes people very vulnerable to "new, amazing, never before seen" results of magic products. Somehow, people are fooled into ignoring their gut feelings (that these products are a scam!) throw their money and energy into useless tactics to be healthier.

Years ago, when a crazy product would emerge, the sellers would expect the buyers to believe that a diet product or "system" would work based on testimony or big words. Luckily, nowadays consumers are smarter but these sneaky business people have found another way to dupe consumers: they claim to have "reference" to research proving the validity of the diet or product.

We all want proof that the diet or product we are about to embark upon will "actually work". The problem is that this so called research and studies cannot prove anything if poorly conducted. Lucky for the companies selling this crap the average person does not have the faintest clue how to decide if a study was conducted properly or if the results extracted from the results have any actual relevance to humans.
Let's take a popular diet book: The China Study. Too many people have brushed aside my hesitance to accept the ridiculous diet because "the book has so many references to studies proving its validity". Recently, I was lucky enough to hear a few explanations gathered by a research dietitian who, like many of us, are sick of hearing about all the bogus claims that are "proven". Here is a mere sampling of her findings when the china study is looked at more closely:

- firstly, the claim on the front cover of the book has not been validated by what's called a "peer review" since book covers are exempt from this method of scientific quality control. Published papers in reputable journals must undergo review of their articles before it is published to help meet certain standards.
-secondly, most of the studies sited in the book are based on animal and observational studies. Both of which are the weakest kind of studies that provide a low level of evidence. If you have further questions regarding the level of evidence in research, you can easily google search all terms.

-thirdly, you cannot take a whole country's data and compare it to another country. For example, stating that bone fracture rates are highest in countries where the most dairy is consumed is not pinpointing conclusive evidence. It is called an "ecological" fallacy- what you see as an average for a population cannot always be applied to the individuals in a population.

So, before you go believing some new miracle food or diet that has been "proven" to work, take a  look at some of the details. If it sounds fishy or too good to be true- it is. Don't be fooled- use the money to consult a real expert. The info may be less glamorous but at least it will be true.

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