are you a victim of nutrition fraud?

Jessica Penner, RDSmarten Up12 Comments

are you a victim of nutrition fraud

Have you ever turned to google for some nutrition information?  If so,  you’ve probably fallen victim to nutrition fraud, at the hands of nutrition bloggers with no credentials.  

They’re not intentionally misleading anybody, of course, but that’s what happens when they write about things outside their scope of knowledge, while positioning themselves as experts.

This kind of irresponsible behaviour enrages me. It has the potential to hurt the health of innocent people!  

No matter how savvy you are, it can be very easy to let the results of a google search dupe you.  Nutrition is an extensive, complicated scientific topic, and nutrition fraudsters are great at sounding like they know what they’re talking about.

A Grain of Truth
Their best trick is basing their point on a grain of truth.  They’ll feed you that grain of truth, which gets you to trust them, and then they can feed you whatever junk they want.  

Want An Example?
There are sooo many examples of this. I’ll be debunking a bunch of them in my Smarten Up series, so subscribe to my newsletter to hear more. For now, take one example I noticed recently, brown rice and white rice.

If you google brown rice vs. white rice, you’ll find a bunch of articles from people talking about how they know better than the experts.  These folks have figured out that, contrary to expert opinion, white rice is better for you than brown rice.

What They Get Right
One reason for this, they’ll explain, is that when brown rice is processed into white rice the bran is removed. This bran contains phytic acid, which can reduce the body’s ability to absorb some minerals.  

This is 100% accurate. Phytic acid reduces mineral absorption. The author has found a grain of truth to make them sound trustworthy… brown rice has phytic acid.  

Therefore brown rice is bad, right?

Why They’re Wrong
Bloggers who don’t know better won’t give you the big picture on this, because they don’t have the depth of knowledge to see it.  The truth is that for most people the amount of mineral absorption affected by phytic acid is not a major concern.

The average first world diet, while far from perfect, contains enough of the four food groups to provide adequate minerals for their diet. While some people may be low on minerals, it’s not a high-priority concern for most people’s health.

smart nutrition tip brown rice white rice

A reduction in fibre, however… that’s a big deal.   And brown rice has 4.5 times the fibre of white rice!

North Americans are seriously lacking fibre in their diets.  Being low in fibre can lead to constipation, diverticula, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and possibly even colon cancer.

Fibre
But hold on, these bloggers will now tell you that fibre is bad for you! APPARENTLY many people eat too much of it and it’s linked with gas, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, etc.  They will even provide a source for this claim, so it seems legit, right?

Well, every blog making that claim is using one book as their source. It’s The Fibre Menace, written by Konstantin Monastyrsky, a guy who is a trained/professional pharmacist, computer programmer, software entrepreneur, systems analyst, insurance salesman, and burglar alarm installer, but somehow has absolutely zero education or certification in… you guessed it… NUTRITION!  He’s known for misusing his sourcesfor being “just a little bit crazy,”  and his theory demonizing fibre seems primarily based on his personal struggle with IBS.  

Some fibres can exacerbate IBS, so dietitians might sometimes recommend a diet that avoids those types of fibres.  Dietitians would NEVER take that piece of information and claim that fibre isn’t an important part of most people’s diet. 

Be Careful What You Trust
As long as there are people blogging, there will be people blogging/arguing about things they don’t fully understand.  You could spend your lifetime trying to figure out who to trust, and sifting through these kind of debates filled with half-truths.  

But you shouldn’t have to do this.  It’s time to demand reliable nutritional information.  

It’s time to stop rewarding unreliable sources with your time and page views.  

It’s definitely time to stop trusting them with your health decisions.  

Consult your doctor, or better yet, consult the person who your doctor consults about nutrition, a Registered Dietitian.  Consult with an organization like Health Canada, which is informed by the expertise of all the leading experts on such topics.  These are the expert sources on nutrition, they are extensively educated and licensed to advise you on these specific topics.  Your health is their responsibility.

Or, if I haven’t convinced you, keep consulting unqualified bloggers.  As one of them said, when somebody commented about her misleading information:  “my only responsibility is to write whatever the hell I want.” 

Do these people make it hard for you to know what to believe online? Let me know in the comments

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12 Comments on “are you a victim of nutrition fraud?”

  1. Great article Jessica! I agree with you on so many levels. Happy to see a credible RD fighting the good fight.

    Love, Carrots and Cake
    Nita (www.carrotsandcake.ca)

    1. Yay, my first comment!
      Thanks for the support Nita. I took a look at your website (love the name!) and see that you are also based in Winnipeg. How did you come across Smart Nutrition? As you can tell, I’m just working on building this site and haven’t had an official launch yet.

  2. This is wonderful. I know the importance of scientific literacy but don’t have the time or expertise to delve into sources and pick apart studies, or essentially ponder the philosophy of truth and knowledge. It would be excellent to have a place where I can read someone elses reliable, objective analyses of studies and arguments pertaining to each weird nutritional issue. It would be really nice to have summaries of the arguments presented within the sources and the counterpoints to them too, but thats a shit ton of work! I will definitely keep reading this site though. Nutrition science is so new and complex… Thank you!

    1. Hi Veronica,
      Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I’m so glad to hear that you find this site useful! Thank you for the suggestion on including the arguments for and against specific topics. I’ll try to include analyses such as those in future articles! Is there any “weird nutritional issue” on your mind at the moment?

      1. Hi Jessica,

        A couple of things I am curious about are firstly, bioavailability of vitamins and nutrients, and how far you can trust the nutrition info on the back of a package. Secondly would be margerine and canola oil. Is the trans fat the only thing to be worried about? I have a hard time thinking that something with the manufacturing process of margerine or canola oil could be considered on par with something as simple as butter. Finally, cooking oils and rancidity, or eating nuts and the potentially rancid oils in nuts improperly stored. I’m checking out some of your new posts now, great content! I like the ‘rds spill the beans’ posts!

        1. Hi (again!) Veronica,
          I’ll be doing a post soon on cooking oils so stay tuned for the answers on margarine, butter, etc!
          As for rancid nuts, they’re not good to eat as they contain Reactive Oxygen Species, which can cause damage to our cells. But, the good thing, is that you can easily tell when a food is rancid! It’s not going to taste or smell good. To prevent rancidity, keep nuts in the freezer!
          Bioavailability of nutrients is a complicated topic to fully address here. I am planning a post on increasing the bioavailability of iron from food sources soon!

  3. Love this! Well, Jessica, I do trust you for accurate nutritional info and I’m looking forward to reading more!

  4. I almost never make a comment on the web but today I must! It is delightful to see someone credible produce such excellent material. I am so tired of hearing friends and family feed me junk they have “read” somewhere. But I must admit it is not so easy for most of us to tell the difference between good and bad food advice. Sadly so many people spend way more than they can afford on things that bring little or no benefit.

    Your information will be a great resource. Keep it up!

    I must also mention that your decision to put your family first is fabulous!

    1. Thank you George. I really appreciate your words of encouragement. It really bothers me that there are people out there who take advantage of those who don’t have a formal education in nutrition!

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