Dietary news is everywhere, and it can be confusing, especially when the headlines are completely contradictory. Luckily, most of the science underlying diet news is correct, and the headlines are only needed to make the story newsworthy. A recent study, for example, in 18 countries found that people who ate a high-fat diet cut their mortality rate by 23 per cent. But how can you make sense of it all?
Journalists fall for implausible claims
Journalists are prone to making implausible dietary claims and give too much weight to preliminary research. This is especially true in articles about diet, which often fall into the fad of "quirky quick fixes" that can mislead the public. Take the recent article in the Express that claimed paprika could prevent the development of cancer. While the results are meaningless, the article's headline and author's biomarker content were widely ridiculed.
Moreover, many journalists use conflicting health study results to promote their own agenda, which is not helpful for the public's confidence in science. This is especially true if the results are contradictory and the real causal effect is negligible. Instead of focusing on conflicting results, journalists should focus on a single study that does not contain competing dietary claims. A good starting point for evaluating dietary health claims is the Sanders/Goldacre study. However, it is important to recognize the limitations of this study.
The term "quackery" refers to claims that are either completely false or minimize the benefits and risks of a product or practice. The claims of quackery are often misleading and may lead consumers to believe in harmful treatments that are not recommended by reputable medical authorities. The fact is that no product or practice can guarantee a cure for cancer. Therefore, it is best to be skeptical of dietary claims made by quacks.
Making sense of dietary news
We are constantly bombarded with a vast amount of information, including dietary news and scientific studies. It can be difficult to know which information to trust, and which ones are simply misinformation. To make sense of nutrition research news, you should look for the who, what, when, and where of the articles. Check out who owns or runs the site. Also, check out the purpose of the website. Do the authors and experts have their own opinions on the subject?