Written By: Shana Alford, VP Research and Evaluation at Common Threads
The American Society of Nutrition’s 2022 Conference was held in June and hosted by the American Society of Nutrition, a mission-based membership driven organization that strives to advance the science, practice and education of nutrition. This conference was very informative and opened up discourse about nutrition misconceptions and myths that impact public health. Let’s dive into one of the hot topics discussed!
One particularly interesting session covered during the conference was, Nutrition Information/Misinformation: Who’s Right? Who Gets to Decide? led by Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc (Tufts University). This session discussed the increasing nutrition misinformation that lowers the public’s confidence about nutrition science, and leads to confusion about food, diet and health, all of which threaten public health. For example, as explored in the article: Misinformation on Cancer Nutrition Abounds on Pinterest, social media has oversaturated nutrition information and this information is many times incorrect, which is troubling. The article states that “About one-third of cancer nutrition information on the social media site Pinterest is misleading and posted by businesses trying to sell products, according to a new study.” And, the misinformation doesn’t stop there. Even some of the most common nutritional information has been debunked. The New York Times article “How Much Water Do I Actually Need” challenges the classic 6-8 glasses a day water intake recommendation. “We’ve all been taught that eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day is the magic number for everyone, but that notion is a myth, said Tamara Hew-Butler, an exercise and sports scientist at Wayne State University.”
While sources of misinformation will keep growing, TikTok is one of them, there isn’t one solution for this ongoing problem. Instead, there is a lot of opportunity to start integrating nutrition myth busting into nutrition education, whether it is online, in-person, at a doctor’s office, or in a grocery store. Dr. Lichtenstein and many others emphasize that nutrition science is always evolving like other medical sciences and it is a matter of what, how, and when information is communicated to the public that can be improved upon. There has been some success and movement with nutrition labels. Check out the new USDA nutrition label, which is the first major update to the label in over 20 years. Diagram X shows the evolution of this label over time.
Source: American Society of Nutrition, Nutrition Information/Misinformation: Who’s Right? Who Gets to Decide? led by Alice H. Lichtenstein,
While it is up to the consumer to beware, the responsibility for fact vs. fiction lies with all stakeholders in the food industry, including businesses, public health professionals, and federal, state, and local agents. This needle cannot be moved by one party. Why? The truth is everyone eats. Anyone can fall prey to misinformation and for that reason we should all care. One tenet at Common Threads is knowledge-building with communities which requires making information accessible, relatable and informative. As an organization we understand the impact and importance for improving nutrition education with reliable information, which is why Common Threads is dedicated to providing up-to-date and applicable nutrition education.