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How Fake Nutrition News Hurts Us All

Learning to think critically about nutrition claims can help make us better consumers of information in general.

By
Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS,
Episode #474

There is one nutrient where dates really do stand out: They contain more sugar than any other fresh fruitalmost twice as much as the next highest fruit. Then again, sugar is a nutrient that most of us don’t have to go out of our way to get enough of.

Should You Eat Dates?

Dates are delicious and exotic. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy them! Because they are uniquely high in sugar, it’s best to enjoy them in moderation. But the idea that they are nutritional powerhouses or disease fighting superfoods is ridiculous. And the fact that the source of these completely unsubstantiated assertions is a company that sells dates should be all it takes to know that we’re not dealing with a credible source.

Fighting this sort of misinformation is like trying to behead the mythical Hydra.

But here’s the thing: Fighting this sort of misinformation is like trying to behead the mythical Hydra. In the time it took me to rebut these ridiculous claims about dates, twelve more absurd nutrition articles have been posted online, and three of them have been reposted by my Aunt Sylvia.

My Not-so-Secret Agenda

As a colleague wrote to me the other day, “Supplying facts isn’t enough to immunize people against anti-facts. We have to help people learn how to evaluate and recognize the difference.” Because the next bit of misinformation is always just around the bend.

And that’s a big part of what I hope to accomplish in this podcast and my other work. Not only do I want to help people be smarter about their nutrition choices, I'd love to help people become more discerning consumers of information in general.

The same process that you see me apply to nutrition claims (being respectfully skeptical, checking the logic, seeking objective evidence, considering the source, looking for alternate explanations, and so on) can be applied to all sorts of topics.

Maybe, just maybe, by learning how to think critically about nutrition info in the media, we can learn to think more rationally about other information we encounter as well.

Before you internalize, act on, or disseminate any piece of informationon any subjectyou owe it to yourself (and the world at large) to pause and consider how you might check to see if it’s actually true. In today’s environment of information overload and instant communication, that pause has never been more crucial.

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