You Cant Judge a Book by Its Cover

Although magazine racks, bookstore shelves, newspaper columns, and the Internet bombard you with healthful eating advice, being a best-seller or highly visible doesn't make the advice reliable. Despite threads of truth, the messages may be laced with misinformation or offer advice in a context that doesn't apply to you. Give what you read or hear a reliability check.

Who Wrote It?

Check the author's qualifications. A reputable nutrition author usually is educated in the field of nutrition, medicine, or a related specialty, with a degree or degrees from an accredited college or university. He or she usually is a credentialed member of a credible nutrition organization—for example, an RD or a DTR. Today you can find many books, magazine articles, newspaper columns, and online information written by qualified nutrition experts. See "The Real Expert ... Please Stand Up " in this chapter.

Many credible writers are affiliated with an accredited university or medical center that offers nutrition or related health research, programs, or courses. An "accredited" institution generally is certified by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Check the reference department of your local library for an institution's accreditation.

Why Was It Published?

For healthful eating advice, find resources with a balanced nutrition message meant to inform, not advertise. Try to analyze what's being said or implied. If it's not clear, ask a qualified nutrition expert.

Is the Nutrition Advice Credible?

Check the sources cited. Reliable advice is backed up with credible sources such as:

• Government entities. For example, the National Academy of Sciences/Institute of Medicine, the U.S.

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) base healthful eating and lifestyle guidelines on the most current research and consensus from scientific experts. Among the guidelines often cited: Dietary Reference Intakes, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, MyPyramid, and the CDC's body mass index and physical activity guides.

  • Credible professional nutrition and health organizations. They base their advice on sound scientific evidence and government guidelines.
  • Peer-reviewed scientific journals. Research reported in peer-reviewed journals goes through the scrutiny of experts before it can be printed, so in medical news stories, look for the journal citing. If you choose, you can read the original research. Among the many journals: New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association, and Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

Credible nutrition experts don't claim to have all the answers. If scientific evidence isn't conclusive or if the issues are controversial, they say so.

Have You Ever Wondered

  • how to access credible scientific journals? University, medical school, and large urban libraries have them. With Internet access you can check online through MEDLINE, a database managed by the National Library of Medicine, a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. MEDLINEplus (www.nlm.nih.gov/medline plus/) is especially designed for consumer ease; the site can link you to the National Library of Medicine's PubMed Web site (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/) with access to scientific journal abstracts and articles. Some journals have their own online presence, perhaps available at no charge.
  • how to judge today's alternative-nutrition approaches? New stories about dietary supplements, herbal remedies, and holistic therapies need to stand up to the same scrutiny as any scientific research report-and the study itself needs the same rigor and precision. Testimonials and anecdotes aren't enough.

Check "Resources You Can Use " at the back of this book for many—but not all—government and health agencies, professional organizations, and food industry groups that provide credible information.

What Do Credible Experts Say?

Look for reviews by credible experts. For a book, start inside or on the cover itself, where you may find

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