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Don't Believe Everything You Read: Why We Need To Encourage 'Responsible' Health & Nutrition Journalism

25/08/2016 14:53

I wrote an article recently about whether a vegan diet can be healthy for children and to summarise, I concluded it was with the right planning and knowledge. The biggest concern with the diet in early childhood is nutritional inadequacy and whether it's safe and healthy for children to grow and thrive. Both parents and carers need to be extremely well informed, otherwise there is a risk of vitamin D, calcium, iron and possibly vitamin B12 deficiency.

I received a great deal of support from the vegetarian community which I am very grateful for; however, there were a number of feathers that I clearly ruffled. Now let me confirm that an integral component of being a dietitian is practicing evidence based medicine, which is something I'm sure some of you are already aware of. Everything we advise and write about is supported by science and we must comply with a strict code of conduct when practicing, either face to face in clinic or to a wider audience, through the media.

A regular frustration of mine is the continual need to scan and correct nutrition related stories in the media that are written by 'experts' and are so far from being clinically sound. Those who write for the general public have a responsibility to report balanced and researched articles and the majority do. However, there are a handful that don't and this is the area I and others are striving hard to improve. The public is bombarded with incorrect messages about the benefits of being wheat free, gluten free and dairy free, regardless whether there is any clinical need. A very small percent of the population actually need to avoid these key foods groups, for diagnosed clinical conditions.

I read an article very recently (in Elle Magazine) that shunned eating fruit and vegetables and actively encouraged people to reduce their intakes, which is something we should never recommend. The Angry Chef is one of many who continues to fight these fad diets and is calling to have this story removed from the original website and has started a petition to drive this.

Whilst my article may have been a little controversial for some, part of my role is to support and educate people on the healthiest way to incorporate their beliefs and to highlight any challenging areas of any diet and ensure it is healthy and balanced. If it's not healthy, I advise against it. So my advice to you when reading any nutrition article is this:
1) Firstly, note the author, their background and nutrition qualification (if any)
2) Secondly, check if they have referenced their work and if so, what's the source
3) and thirdly, if you're thinking about changing your diet as a result of reading an article, why not look for help and advice from an expert dietitian. They're highly trained, can run any appropriate tests and ensure that their advice is specifically tailored to your body, your health needs and your lifestyle.

What do you think about this? Tweet me on Twitter and join the debate.

For more information, visit www.myprivatediet.com

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