Why Does Nutrition Advice Always Seem to Change?by Hilmar Wagner, MPH, RDN, CD
It seems like every day there is a headline about some nutrition “news.” One day it’s “eggs are good for you,” and the next it’s “limit the number of eggs you eat.” We’re all looking for the best, most reliable information, but it can be difficult to decide which stories are worth our time and attention. So why does it seem like we’re constantly bombarded with incomplete or misleading nutrition information?
- Nutrition scientists are still making discoveries Compared to physics or biology, the field of nutrition is a relatively young discipline. Although the man known as the Father of Nutrition and Chemistry, Antoine Lavoisier, can be traced back to 1770, it wasn’t till the early 20th century that much of what we now know as nutrition science began to take shape with the discovery of vitamins and their impact on health. Even today, it’s difficult to stay current on the latest nutrition information because nutrition science is a rapidly evolving field. We are still learning and reevaluating how certain foods or ways of eating affect our health.
- Nutrition is hot news We see so many stories about food and nutrition because the media knows that headlines about the latest food fad or controversy capture our attention. But these dramatic headlines don’t always give us the full story. Even a small or preliminary study might get reported as “fact” with a simplified, eye-catching headline. The problem? There usually isn’t enough information provided to truly assess if the “news” is really news or not. Sometimes the news story is based on an early study that still requires a lot of follow-up research before we should be drawing conclusions. It’s also possible that a study may be inaccurate because it is poorly designed or funded by an organization that has a self-interest in a certain outcome.
- One size does not fit all It’s also difficult to get accurate nutrition information because there is rarely one perfect answer. People’s physiologies are all a little different. So, eating one way might be perfect for one person and injurious for another. Books or websites that claim a certain approach is best for everyone often cite anecdotal evidence and are driven by a desire to promote a specific agenda or to sell products rather than a desire to offer sound nutritional advice.
So what should I do?
It is important to have a safe and reliable resource for information regarding food and eating. Ideally, this would be an experienced dietitian who you know and trust. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, speak with a dietitian who specializes in eating disorders and thoroughly understands your diagnosis. If you are unable to speak with a professional, you can find accurate nutrition information from well-regarded, reputable sources, including government agencies and client-focused eating disorder websites such as National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA).
However you seek answers, be mindful that you don't get consumed with nutrition information, especially if you are experiencing or have ever experienced an eating disorder. When learning about nutrition issues online, from books, magazines or well-meaning individuals, that information can get distorted by eating disorder thoughts and ultimately work against, rather than for, your recovery efforts.
About the Author
Hilmar Wagner is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist (RDN) and Certified Dietitian (CD) in the state of Washington. Hilmar joined the Emily Program in 2006, and currently serves as the Training Coordinator for Nutrition Services and Clinical Outreach Specialist. In this role he initiates and coordinates training of new dietetic staff, dietetic interns and continuing education for nutrition services for all Emily Program locations. He has presented on a wide range of nutrition topics at local, regional and national conferences. Hilmar received his Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition/Dietetics and Master’s in Public Health Nutrition from the University of Minnesota. He has worked in the field of eating disorders for the past 12 years. Hilmar has extensive experience working with clients of all eating disorder diagnoses in both individual and group settings. He has a particular interest in mindfulness and body-centered approaches to eating disorder recovery.