Evaluating Nutrition Information

Today nutrition information is everywhere. You read about it in newspapers and magazines. You see it on TV. The question is how much should you believe?

Nutrition information is always changing. It changes as more is known.

There are some things you can look for to be sure the nutrition information you see is correct.

  • Check to see where the facts came from. Stories with good information will tell you the hospital, university or government agency that the information came from.
  • If the information came from a company selling a product, it may or may not be true.
  • Look for the name of the person the information came from. You need to know something about this person to help you decide if the information is true. Where do they work? Where did they go to school?
  • Check to see how they got the ideas in the story. Was there a research study done? How long was the study? How many people were studied? The more information the better.
  • Is there more than one source for this information? Is there support for this idea from other places? Has this information been reported in a medical or nutrition journal?

Some signs of misinformation to look for:

  • If a quick cure is promised
  • Claims that sound too good to be true
  • Ideas based on only one study
  • Lists of "good" and "bad" foods
  • If a product is being sold

Good sources of information are from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration, and the United States Department of Agriculture. Information coming from government agencies must follow rules and state facts. These are good sources of information. Information coming from universities is good because it is usually based on research.

If the information has been printed in a medical or nutrition journal several experts have read it. This means several people think it is good information.

If you have questions about something you read or saw on TV, discuss it with someone before you act on it. You doctor would be a good person to talk to about information related to diseases.

Another source of information about nutrition and food is the University of Illinois Extension. Check this page for your local office. They can help you find someone to answer your questions.

Remember nutrition information does change, but slowly. Don't make changes in the food you eat without reading a lot of stories about it. Also, be sure to talk to people who know about food and nutrition.

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Prepared by: Barbara Farner, Extension Educator Nutrition and Wellness, University of Illinois Extension Matteson Extension Center


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