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Nutritional Claims

As more and more people educate themselves about the relationship between diet and disease, they're turning to nutritional remedies to supplement or augment traditional medicine. Although it's good that nutrition information is so readily available, it's often difficult to distinguish legitimate information from the false or unsupported claims. But even if you aren't a nutrition expert, you can evaluate the validity of a nutritional claim, product or diet plan with these simple guidelines.

A nutritional claim is questionable if:

  • It sounds "too good to be true." Does the claim imply an immediate cure or dramatic relief from one or several illnesses? If so, it probably is too good to be true. Nutrition scientists, dietitians and physicians will tell you that the right diet can help you treat a disease or decrease your risk of developing one, but it won't provide a quick cure-all.
  • You must use a specialized food or product to get the promised results. If someone tells you that you must use their products to lose weight or stay healthy, ask to see research that supports their claims
  • You must eat certain "magic" foods every day or avoid entire food groups altogether. You need a variety of foods to meet your nutritional needs for protein, carbohydrates, fat and the essential vitamins and minerals. By eating only selected items or by removing whole food groups from your diet, you'll increase your risk of nutrient, vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
  • The plan calls for large or "megadoses" of vitamins or minerals. If a diet suggests vitamin or mineral doses that exceed the recommended daily allowance (RDA), ask for any research that supports such doses. When it comes to vitamins, more isn't always better. In some cases, excessive vitamin doses can interfere with your body's absorption of other nutrients and actually make you sick.
  • The credentials of the individual offering the nutritional advice are questionable. Double-check any "expert" claims. Find out what kind of education self-proclaimed experts have had, particularly when they call themselves "nutritionists." For example, a registered dietitian (RD) must complete a comprehensive education program and pass an exam to be registered by the American Dietetic Association.
  • The promoter of the product or program disparages traditional medical treatments, contradicts established treatments or relies on personal experience to support his or her claim. The medical community readily accepts and uses nutrition therapies that scientific research studies have proven safe and effective. Claims that aren't supported by research or accepted by health care providers may not produce the promised effect -- and may even be dangerous to your health.

When evaluating nutritional claims and products, ask questions. No question is a dumb question. In addition, always talk to your primary care doctor before starting any new nutrition regimen or taking any nutrient, vitamin or mineral supplement.

 


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