How to find trusted and legitimate sources of food science information.
There are two types of Woo-woo Wonks. On one side, we have the Woo-woo Shills, promoting books, supplements, super-foods and diets “proven” to improve our health, weight, memory, aging…..And then we have the Woo-woo Fear mongers, trying to convince us that some foods and additives are, variously, bad, dirty, and toxic.
Just this morning I read a story about carcinogens in the McRib sandwich. Yeah, that’s one nasty non-food edible product. But your coffee, wine, and many fruits and vegetables contain carcinogens, too, courtesy of Mother Nature. You always need to consider dosage.
Thankfully, most of the time the damage that the Wonks inflict is limited to our wallets, self-esteem, and pride. However, you could also get very sick. Overeating a super-food, completely removing a food item from your diet, or taking mega-doses of supplements can be risky. Better to seek legitimate nutritional or medical treatment for a real health problem.
I will admit that some of our health systems can make it tough for us to have quality time with a doctor. And even when we do get it, some of us don’t like the answer:
You: What can I do to lose weight?
Doctor: Move more, eat less.
You want to hear an easy solution, but a “special” tea isn’t going to do it, and your body needs some of those carbs you think you want to eliminate from your diet. So many of us head to the interwebz for our food science information in search of an answer we like.
I find it strange that we’ll put more research, time, and self-education into buying a laptop that we keep for two years than checking the food science behind a Shill or Fear-monger claim. Sorry, but generally, a professional mom or food blogger’s opinion doesn’t count. You won’t find me making food claims without having a citation or two for you. Finding valid food science information is work!
What to do?
If you have questions about a food or nutrition claim, you can start with one or more of the of the following resources. Get the facts about food science and protect yourself from the Woo-woo!
- Talk to your doctor!
- Consumer Corner: Online Health Information
USDA. NAL. Food and Nutrition Information Center.
A useful collection of guidelines and information designed to help Internet users learn how to evaluate health claims and products.
- Evaluating Internet Health Information
NIH. National Library of Medicine.
This online tutorial teaches you how to evaluate the health information that you find on the Web. It is about 16 minutes long.
Run by Stephen Barrett, M.D., Quackwatch is an international network of people who are concerned about health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct. Its primary focus is on quackery-related information that is difficult or impossible to get elsewhere.
- Weight Loss Products, Programs, and Diets
This site from the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension provides a great analysis of weight loss products and plans along with examples of ineffective products.
- National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Information Service (CIS)
The NCI Contact Center (also know as NCI’s Cancer Information Service) is a federally funded cancer education program. They provide accurate, up-to-date, and reliable information on cancer that is easy to understand. They can also provide personalized responses to a range of cancer questions.
- National Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NIAMS)
The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases is to support research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases.
My personal favorite, PubMed is a service of the US National Library of Medicine that provides free access to a giant database of indexed citations and abstracts to medical, nursing, dental, veterinary, health care, and preclinical sciences journal articles.
- And lastly, if you enjoy a bit of humor – and maybe a few naughty words! – with your food science, check out SciBabe’s blog , Facebook page and Twitter feed.