Knowing who to take diet advice from - CALIFORNIA HEALTH

Knowing who to take diet advice from

 

Knowing who to take diet advice from

Diet advice is an easy target because everyone has the incredible ability to eat. And because we can all eat, many have conferred on themselves the expertise in nutrition and diet. But just as spending time in a garage does not make one a Maserati, no matter how clever one has become in knowing how to eat, that by itself does not make you a diet expert.

People can become experts of their own diet, and it could be encouraging to share one’s experience to encourage others. But that should not translate into being an authority and advising against guidelines that have been formed through review of evidence and forming consensus among different experts.   

Even experts disagree when it comes to nutrition because it is not an absolute science. This is why forming guidelines from consensus is important and should be respected. Guidelines are not sacrosanct and if there were agreement on everything the guidelines say, there will be no need for guidelines. One can have a view on which foods are healthy and which are not. But nutrition science is not a democracy where every viewpoint carries the same weight.

Diet advice should not be based on wild claims from Doctor Who either. The fact that the good Doctor appears on TV, YouTube, or has millions of followers on social media does not make them an authority on diet. In many cases, it only makes them an opinionated expert propounding untested theories muddled in pseudoscience. Remember that people have made, and continue to make, a hero living from criticising guidelines. Some experts mean well, but they might over-step the boundaries of their knowledge thereby ignoring the whole-person approach to diet. Some people forget that being an expert in one area of health does not automatically make one an expert in another.

A cardiologist may give you a diet advice that will protect your heart but may probably increase your risk of another health condition. They may have a peculiar interest which is heart health and may have read a few papers about diet for heart health but many self-promoting doctors have absolutely no clue of what constitutes a healthy diet that looks at the individual as a person who is at risk of not only one health problems.

Many usually fail to see the bigger picture. So for example if the person has diabetes, a doctor may tell you to cut carbs. If this is not explained properly, the unintended consequence is that you may replace the carbs with too much red and processed meat. This can potentially increase your risk of certain cancers.  So in the end you may be having good control of your diabetes, but the increase risk of cancer renders this doctor’s advice unhelpful.   

Don’t get me wrong. I have ran several clinics with different doctors, attended conferences and spoke to many who are at the top of their career. The great doctors know the gaps in their nutrition knowledge. They know that being good at stenting a patient does not necessarily make you good at giving diet advice. However, the deluded ones will tell you their 2-day nutrition course makes them an authority in nutrition.

The clue is if a so-called diet expert makes wild claims about a particular diet and starts undermining nutrition guidelines, don’t take their words. When you have a diet expert telling you that their proposed diet is a cure for an incurable condition like diabetes – be afraid, and when you have a nutrition guru telling you that you can lose 20lb in a week be very afraid!

My point is, in diet if the advice sounds too good to be true, if it deviates too much from the guidelines – just ignore it and get back to basics! 

The diet experts you can trust

Listen to the real diet experts – mainly dietitians and some nutritionists. I say some nutritionists because, unlike the title dietitian, the title nutritionist is not protected in many countries. So whilst some nutritionists have undergone rigorous university education to understand the ins and outs of nutrition, others have only completed a 1hr online course. Taking advice from a nutritionist with a few hours or days of formal nutrition education is akin to asking your 2 year old son to drive you to church. With the advent of social media, there is a lot falsehood and self-proclaimed nutrition gurus feeding on people’s interest in diets and the propensity to unduly defy real experts. Some information out there on the internet can actually kill you. So read wisely, interpret fairly and find a way to moderate your expectations from dietary changes. At 24 health, we only work with registered dietitians and qualified nutritionists of international repute. All our experts have years of practical experience in supporting people to make informed decisions about their health. And we have a compassionate way of helping people sustain long-term changes to their diet.