Debunking Diet and Nutrition Quackery

It’s just about that time of year where the public is inundated with diet fads and gimmicks.

Red flags to look out for when evaluating diet/nutrition advice that indicate ineffective, even harmful advice include:

* Foods or advice that tout “miracle” fat loss or weight-loss qualities
* Odd amounts of foods or stringent food combining
* Emphasizing one food or one type of food
* Quick weight loss
* Must buy food or product to be successful
* Minimal or no emphasis on physical activity

The products and strategies that are promoted for weight loss such as patches, stimulators, spirulina (blue green algae), fat and starch blockers and fat melting creams are not proven to work and they can potentially be harmful, which make them a bad investment for everyone. Strategies such as sweating in a sauna or wearing a rubber belt or nylon clothing can cause a small amount of weight loss due to losing water from our body. However, once you eat or drink again, the weight returns. Additionally, sweating without replenishing fluids can cause dehydration which is a health risk.

Questions to ask about health/diet programs to assess the safety and effectiveness include:

* What are the approaches and goals of the program?
* What are the risks to health?
* What is included in establishing a health assessment? Is a medical checkup from your primary physician recommended?
* Does the program include practical nutrition and physical activity information and education to follow for a lifetime of healthy eating and exercise?
* Is there proof of program effectiveness other than personal testimonies?
* Ask for 2-5 years worth of successful customer results. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) insist that weight loss companies back up their claims.
* What are all the costs? Membership, weekly fees, food, supplements, counseling, etc. Will health insurance cover any of the costs? Are there any refunds?
* What is the follow-up for individuals? Are there any modifications based on individual needs? Do these cost extra?
* What are the credentials and experience of the people giving the advice and education? These details should be readily available.

Remember Registered Dietitians are the health professionals of choice for nutrition and diet advice. They must complete a Bachelor’s of Science or graduate degree, an internship of 900+ hours and be registered through the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) where every RD is required to maintain continuing education credits which allows them to keep up with current research and education in Nutrition. Many people consider themselves experts because they may be in a field they think relates to health and nutrition such as personal trainers, chiropractors or just because they eat food and they assume that entitles them to be an expert in the area of nutrition.

A good rule of thumb is balance, moderation and variety. Also remember that physical activity goes hand in hand with healthful eating. To find a dietitian in your area go to the American Dietetic Association’s website at