How do you avoid nutritional misinformation?

Every article referencing antioxidants or phytochemicals or polyphenols and indeed every blog or article on nutrition, need to have reliable references

A little bit of history

Ever since James Lind discovered the cure for scurvy in 1747 we have had studies, lab tests and observations giving us insight into the health benefits of foods.

For Dr Lind, whilst he didn’t know it, it was the vitamin C content of the foods he fed to the sailors dying of scurvy that led to their cure and later to the prevention of scurvy.

Similarly the cure for rickets was discovered by giving fish oil to rats, the bioactivity of what was initially called vitamin A was discovered in the fish oil as being the reason for the cure. This was later renamed to vitamin D and to this day we all know that vitamin D deficiency results in rickets.

Since these cures were discovered scientists have unearthed the bioactivity (the effects on us) of 17 vitamins and 13 minerals that we all require, in adequate amounts, on a regular basis to protect our ongoing health.

Food analysis and RDA’s are created

In the late 1930’s Professor McCance and Dr Widdowson put forward the idea of food composition data — that is the analysis of all foods for their vitamin, mineral and macronutrient (carbs, fats, proteins) content.

Then, in the early 1940’s the US National Academy of Sciences created RDA’s to complement the food analysis. These are effectively recommended daily amounts of vitamins, minerals and macronutrients required by us to protect and maintain good health.

It is this history of studies, lab tests, observation, food analysis and RDA’s that gives us the tools to circumvent nutritional misinformation.

An emerging area of nutritional science that could muddy the fairly clear waters of nutrition given to us by years of sound peer reviewed science is the area of phytochemicals. These are the chemicals produced naturally by plants to protect themselves from disease that seem to pass on similar benefits to us.

The word ‘antioxidants’ is often the word that’s used when you see articles about blueberries or dark chocolate. But before we get lost in the inevitable misinformation that results from people trying to sell us new health giving ingredients such as ‘Goji berries’, what of the science?

Every article referencing antioxidants or phytochemicals or polyphenols and indeed every blog or article on nutrition, need to have reliable references as nutritional science, whilst being ongoing, is rooted in a long and credible history of increasing revelation about nutrients and their benefits.

So to avoid misinformation check the accepted science of nutrients, composition data and RDA’s and double check the sources of any article that is talking about the health benefits of any ingredient, meal or individual nutrient.

Or to cut all of these corners use where you will find an integration of the world’s science with food composition data and RDA’s. You can check the health benefits of ingredients and meals and track and analyse your food to ensure an accurate healthy diet free of misinformation.

Matt Wright


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