Friday, November 30, 2018

Evaluating Information on the Internet

I am taking a NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist course and read this great article in my text book that will help you differentiate between useful nutrition information and a sales pitch on the web.

Coach Sherril

Evaluating Information on the Internet

Surfing the Web has made life easier in many ways. You can buy a car, check stock prices, search out sources for a paper you’re writing, chat with like-minded people, and stay up-to-date on news or sports scores. Hundreds of websites are devoted to nutrition and health topics, and you may be asked to visit such sites as part of your course requirements. So, how do you evaluate the quality of information on the Web? Can you trust what you see?

First, it’s important to remember that there are no rules for posting on the Internet. Anyone who has the equipment can set up a website and post any content he or she likes. Although the Health on the Net Foundation has set up a Code of Conduct for medical and health websites, following their eight principles is completely voluntary

Second, consider the source, if you can tell what it is! Many websites do not specify where the content came from, who is responsible for it, or how often it is updated. If the site lists the authors, what are their credentials? Who sponsors the site itself? Educational institutions (.edu), government agencies (.gov), and organizations (.org) generally have more credibility than commercial (.com) sites, where selling rather than educating is the primary motive. Identifying the purpose for a site can give you more clues about the validity of its content.

Third, when you see claims for nutrients, dietary supplements, or other products and results of studies or other information, keep in mind the scientific method and the basics of sound science. Who did the study? What type of study was it? How many subjects? Was it double-blind? Were the results published in a peer-reviewed journal? Think critically about the content, look at other sources, and ask questions of experts before you accept information as truth. What is true of books, magazines, and newspapers also applies to the Internet: Just because it is in print or online doesn’t mean it’s true.

Finally, be on the lookout for “junk science”—sloppy methods, interpretations, and claims that lead to public misinformation. The Food and Nutrition Science Alliance (FANSA) is a coalition of several health organizations, including the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. FANSA has developed the “10 Red Flags of Junk Science” to help consumers identify potential misinformation. Use these red flags to evaluate websites.

The 10 Red Flags of Junk Science

1.  Recommendations that promise a quick fix
2.  Dire warnings of danger from a single product or regimen
3.  Claims that sound too good to be true
4.  Simplistic conclusions drawn from a complex study
5.  Recommendations based on a single study
6.  Statements refuted by reputable scientific organizations
7.  Lists of “good” and “bad” foods
8.  Recommendations made to help sell a product
9.  Recommendations based on studies not peer reviewed
10.  Recommendations from studies that ignore differences among individuals or groups

Use the Internet; it’s fun and can be educational. Don’t forget about the library, though, because many scientific journals are not available online. Treat claims as “guilty until proven innocent”—in other words, don’t accept what you read at face value until you have evaluated the science behind it. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! (Insel 22)
Paul Insel. Nutrition, 5th Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning, 2017

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