How to Spot A Quack: 5 Signs A Nutrition “Expert” Isn’t Trustworthy
Who can you trust for credible nutrition information? Well, I’ll tell you who you can’t on this week’s episode of The Sitch – “How to Spot a Quack.”
With so many people doling out nutrition advice online these days, it’s hard to know who to trust.
On this week’s episode of “The Sitch,” I’m dishing up the five tell-tale signs on how to spot a quack!
How to Spot A Quack Nutritionist
In my recent video, The Difference Between Registered Dietitians and Nutritionists, we talked about the obligation to evidence-based practice that RDs are required to uphold in their work.
The use of evidence-based information is one way to differentiate credible health practitioners from quacks. But there are several other easy to spot, red flags.
#1: Quacks make definitive statements
A non-evidence based nutrition practitioner will often say things like this:
“Sugar causes cancer.“
“Blueberries prevent Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Gluten causes leaky gut syndrome.”
The truth is in most fields of science, and especially nutrition, we don’t have definitive evidence to make claims like this.
Science is constantly evolving and things are rarely black and white.
A credible nutrition expert will use what we call “qualifiers” to account for the unknowns in research.
We’ll say things like:
“The polyphenolic compounds in blueberries have shown to possess antioxidant properties and MAY help to prevent cognitive decline in diseases like Alzheimer’s.”
See the difference? We use words like may, could, possibly, or suggests…
#2: Quacks lack references
When shady health experts make these unequivocal statements, they typically don’t provide any evidence to back up their claims.
In the medical field, we always use references.
Back to the blueberries for a second – if I tell you that studies show blueberries are beneficial for brain health, you’re damn straight I’m going to link to a well-done study supporting that statement.
#3: Quacks source other quacks
In the rare instance that these people actually do provide a reference, they usually reference other questionable characters.
So instead of citing or linking to a peer-reviewed research article in a well-known medical journal, Dr. Axe-ually a Chiropractor will link to a popular wellness website which will link to an article by Holistic Health Guru Heather who will then link to a blog post written by Kim Kardashian.
And the chain of misinformation continues.
#4: Quacks lack proper credentials
As discussed in my video on RDs and nutritionists, registered dietitians are required to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nutrition from an accredited university in addition to passing a board certifying exam and completing 1200 hours of supervised practice.
Any other nutrition title does not hold the same requirements. So that means a so-called expert could have completed a year-long online program or only week-long program – there’s no oversight.
This is not to say anyone without a degree is a quack but it’s one sign of many that perhaps these experts don’t hold the expertise they claim.
Alternatively, they may have credentials, just not nutrition credentials. Many doctors, for example, stake a claim in the nutrition space, yet the average MD is only required to take one actual nutrition class in their 4-year graduate program.
#5: Quacks are always trying to sell you something
When you go to quack’s website, the first thing you see is a product for sale. It’s usually a supplement.
Not all professionals selling products are quacks but all quacks are selling products.
They’ll usually claim that said product is necessary to cure whatever ailment led you to their website in the first place.
Sure, they’ll acknowledge the importance of a proper diet, exercise, and avoiding harmful behaviors – but they’ll also insist that your regimen isn’t complete without their essential pills and powders.
This is completely contradictory to what credible nutrition practitioner’s support. We believe that a healthy diet is paramount.
If you need any supplements beyond what food can offer, you can be sure they will be standard micronutrients that you’ve actually heard of – not some expensive, mysterious blend of herbs and extracts that you can’t pronounce and they aren’t supported by rigorous scientific research.
And those are the telltale signs for spotting a quack. Any “experts” that come to mind?
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Weigh in: What quacky nutrition “experts” come to mind after watching this video?